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What are Herniated Discs?

Herniated discs


The discs are located in between each vertebrae (bone) of the spine. The structure of a disc is round with a tough outer layer called the annulus, which surrounds the inner layer called the nucleus. The discs act as cushions or shock absorbers for the vertebrae.

A herniated disc is when part of the disc pushes out of the outer layer (annulus) and into the spinal canal. This can place pressure on the nerve, which results in pain.


Degeneration of a disc over time can thin the disc and weaken surrounding structures. Thus, making the person more vulnerable to herniation that can be caused by just a minor strain or twisting motion. Other causes include excessive strain or injury.

Herniated discs most commonly occur in the lumbar spine (low back), and cervical spine (neck), but can occur in any part of the spine.


Symptoms vary depending on the severity of the herniation. It may cause low back pain or no pain at all. If the disc is placing pressure on a nerve, it may cause the person to experience pain, numbness, or weakness in the area that the nerve innervates, or radiate down the arms or legs.

Urgent medical attention is necessary if you experience significant arm or leg weakness, loss of bowel or bladder control, loss of sensation in the genital or rectal area, injury, or signs of infection.


At Aligned Medical Group, an integrated physical medicine practice, a healthcare provider will perform a review of your history and a physical exam. The healthcare provider may order x-rays of your spine. If a disc herniation is suspected, an MRI will be ordered to get a clear picture of the spine for further evaluation. Other tests that may be ordered as needed. These tests might include a CT scan (Computerized tomography), or EMG (electromyography), depending on your particular situation.


Possible nonsurgical treatments include anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, chiropractic care, and corticosteroid injections into the spine. Another new and exciting option is regenerative therapy, also known as stem cell therapy.

If conservative measures fail, in severe cases, surgery may be warranted and recommended.


Prevention and early intervention are key factors in avoiding any extreme issues with herniated discs. Maintaining a healthy weight, smoking cessation, exercising to strengthen your core muscles and maintaining good posture, go a long way in preventing herniated discs from ever happening in the first place.


American Association of Neurological Surgeons. (2020). Herniated disc.


Aligned Medical Group, P.C.

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