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What is a disc herniation?

Disc herniation is characterized by the bulging of the intervertebral disc, which can cause symptoms such as back pain, burning sensation or numbness. It is more frequent in the cervical spine and in the lumbar spine.

The herniated disc can be classified according to the region of the spine that affects and, therefore, it can be:

Cervical disc herniation: Affects the neck region.
Thoracic disc herniation: Affects the middle region of the back.
Lumbar disc herniation: Affects the lower region of the back.

The vertebral disc is a fibrocartilaginous structure that serves to avoid direct contact between one vertebra and another, and cushion the impact generated by activities such as jumping. So a disc lesion impairs the function of the spinal disc and presses other important structures of the spine such as the root of a nerve or the spinal cord.

Types of disc herniation

The onset of a disc lesion can occur when the person does not have a good posture, lifts weights without bending the knees. In this case, despite not having formed a hernia, the disc is already damaged. It has a smaller thickness, but still maintains its original format: oval. If the person does not improve posture and their lifestyle, in a few years, they may  develop a herniated disc.

The hernia occurs when the vertebral disc loses its original format, ceasing to be oval, forming a bulge that is a kind of ‘gout’, which can press the root of the sciatic nerve, for example. So the 3 types of herniated disc that exist are:

Protruding herniated disc: It is the most common type and it is when the nucleus of the disc remains intact, but there is already loss of the oval form.
Disc extrusion: When the disc nucleus is deformed and leaks outside the annulus, forming a ‘drop’.
Sequestered herniation: When the nucleus is very damaged and can even be divided into two parts.

Symptoms of a herniated disc

The main symptom of a herniated disc is the intense pain in the region where it is located, but it can also generate the following symptoms:

Cervical disc herniation

-Pain in the neck or nape.
-Difficulty in moving the neck or raising the arms.
-There may be a feeling of weakness, numbness or tingling in one of the arms, elbows, hands or fingers.

Lumbar disc herniation

– Pain in the lower region of the back.
– Difficulty moving, bending over, getting up or turning in bed.
– Feeling of numbness in the buttocks, and/or in the legs, in the back, in front or in the inner part of one of the legs.
– Burning sensation in the path of the sciatic nerve that goes from the spine to the feet.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of the herniated disc can be made through the observation of the symptoms and the physical examination. Specialists can confirm it with examinations such as computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging, which help to evaluate the spinal disc, its thickness, the exact location of the hernia and what type of hernia it is.

Treatment

By confirming that there are one or more herniated discs, the doctor may indicate the treatment. It ranges from physiotherapy, Pilates, Global Postural Reeducation, osteopathy, Spinal Injections or surgery. Normally surgery is the last treatment option, being reserved for cases where the person does not show improvement of the symptoms with the other forms of treatment.

 

At the London Spine Unit, we have some of the best specialists to diagnose and treat your disc herniation. Book an appointment to get a checkup.

 

Spinal disc herniation

Percutaneous laser disc decompression versus conventional microdiscectomy for patients with sciatica: Two-year results of a randomised controlled trial.

Sciatica Specialist Harley Street

Lumbar microdiscectomy

 

What are the types of disc herniation?

The 3 types of herniated disc that exist are: Protruding herniated disc: It is the most common type and it is when the nucleus of the disc remains intact, but there is already loss of the normal shape of the disc. Disc extrusion: When the disc nucleus is leaks outside the annulus forming a 'drop'. Sequestered herniation: When the nucleus is very damaged and can become detached from the main component and often can be divided into two parts.

What are the symptoms of a herniated disc?

The main symptom of a herniated disc is the intense pain in the region where it is located, but it can also generate the following symptoms: In cervical disc herniation the patient can have pain in the neck or nape and refer into the arm, difficulty in moving the neck or raising the arms, there may be a feeling of weakness, numbness or tingling in one of the arms, elbows, hands or fingers. In case of lumbar disc herniation, the patient has pain in the lower region of the back, difficulty moving, bending over, getting up or turning in bed, feeling of numbness in the buttocks, and/or in the legs, in the back, in front or in the inner part of one of the legs and burning sensation in the path of the sciatic nerve that goes from the spine to the feet.

How to diagnose disc herniation?

The diagnosis of the herniated disc can be made through the observation of the symptoms and the physical examination. Specialists can confirm it with examinations such as computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging, which help to evaluate the spinal disc, its thickness, the exact location of the hernia and what type of hernia it is.

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