At OrthoGeorgia, our orthopedic spine specialists are skilled in diagnosing and treating all manner of spine conditions and injuries. One such condition is a herniated disc – also referred to as a bulged, slipped, or ruptured disc. Discs cushion the many bones (vertebrae) that form the spine. Acting as shock absorbers, the discs have a jellylike center (nucleus) that is covered by a tough exterior called the annulus. A tear in the annulus can allow some of the nucleus to slip through, resulting in a herniated disc. Herniated discs can occur anywhere along the spine or neck but are most common in the lower back. When you visit OrthoGeorgia with concerns of a herniated disc, we will review your symptoms and ensure that you receive a personalized care plan.
What are the Symptoms of a Herniated Disc?
Symptoms of a herniated disc depend on the location and size of the herniation. Symptoms also depend on whether the disc is pressing on a nerve. A herniated disc in the lower back is likely to cause pain in the lower back, buttocks, thigh, and calf. If the issue involves a disc in the neck, the pain will affect the shoulder and arm and is often described as sharp or burning. Other symptoms of a herniated disc include radiating numbness, tingling, and weakness. Those with a herniated disc often have a history of intermittent back pain. Sometimes, a herniated disc will be asymptomatic, and a patient may not know there is an issue until it is identified via a spinal imaging test.
Diagnosis of a Herniated Disc at OrthoGeorgia
Similar to the diagnostic process for many spinal conditions, your visit with OrthoGeorgia will start with a physical exam and a review of your symptoms and medical history. Your doctor will determine if any muscle weakness is present while also checking for loss of sensation in the areas that may be affected by nerve compression.
From there, your doctor may consider certain imaging tests to determine if a herniated disc is present. This condition cannot be detected via a regular x-ray; however, an x-ray may be ordered to rule out other potential causes of back pain. MRI is the most common imaging modality used to identify this issue. An MRI at OrthoGeorgia can be used to identify a herniated disc, confirm its location, and determine which nerves are affected. Once your doctor has this important information about your spinal issue, they can create a personalized treatment plan for you. OrthoGeorgia offers digital x-ray services at all of our locations in Central GA, while patients have access to MRI scanners at our Macon (Buildings A and B) and Warner Robins offices. We are proud to offer our patients the use of our Signa Voyager Wide Bore MRI machine from GE Healthcare, which provides advanced comfort during the MRI process along with crisper images.
Treatment for Herniated Discs in Central GA
Non-Surgical Herniated Disc Treatment
Fortunately, most patients experience relief from their symptoms with conservative treatment over a period of a few days to weeks. Your doctor may recommend the following nonsurgical treatment options at the beginning of your care journey.
Rest – This may include slower and more controlled physical activity and eliminating certain movements that may cause further pain. Rest as part of herniated disc treatment helps decrease spinal nerve inflammation.
Medication – Herniated disc patients may find pain relief through anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or naproxen. Medication is recommended for those with mild to moderate pain.
Epidural steroid injection – Medication can also be injected directly into the area around the spinal nerves if oral medications do not provide relief. Spinal imaging is used to guide the needle.
Nonsurgical treatments do not heal a herniated disc; they help relieve symptoms like pain while the body attempts to heal the herniation on its own. In many cases, healing will occur naturally over time.
Physical Therapy for Herniated Disc at OrthoGeorgia
Along with conservative treatments for herniated disc symptoms, your doctor at OrthoGeorgia may recommend physical therapy. Specific exercises are often targeted at strengthening the lower back and abdominal muscles. Certain physical therapy techniques can be very beneficial for addressing the symptoms of a herniated disc, and at OrthoGeorgia, our team of physical and occupational therapists will ensure that your care plan is perfectly tailored to you. Our team members have received training in several specialized treatments focused on helping our patients live more active and comfortable lives. Consistent communication between our physical therapy team and our physicians allows for a true team approach every step of the way. Physical therapy for herniated discs in Central GA is offered at our locations in Macon (Buildings A and B), Warner Robins, and Kathleen.
Herniated Disc Surgery in Central GA
Only a small percentage of herniated disc patients require surgery to treat their condition. Surgery is usually only recommended when non-surgical treatments have been unsuccessful for an extended period of time. Surgery may also be considered for patients with the additional symptoms of muscle weakness, difficulty walking, or loss of bladder/bowel control. If your physician at OrthoGeorgia feels that surgery may be the best next step for you, we will walk you through your options and make sure your questions are answered every step of the way. Microdiscectomy is the most common surgical technique for addressing a herniated disc in the lumbar spine. This procedure is a newer, less invasive process than traditional discectomy. During a microdiscectomy, your surgeon can free the nerve compressed by the disc by removing small fragments of disc, bone, and ligament. In some cases, the entire disc may be removed. The procedure is performed via a small incision at the location of the herniated disc. Imaging technology is often used before, and sometimes during, surgery to confirm the operative site. If disc herniations affect more than one area of the spine, a larger procedure may be required. Procedures that can be used to address a herniated disc in the cervical spine (neck) include anterior cervical decompression (discectomy) and posterior cervical laminectomy. OrthoGeorgia’s surgical centers offer first-class care in a warm and comfortable environment and are equipped with the latest technological advances in surgical equipment. We will ensure that you receive the very best spine care in Central GA, from your initial diagnosis to your recovery from surgery.
Other Spine and Back Conditions We Treat at OrthoGeorgia
Our orthopedic spine specialists at OrthoGeorgia work with patients of all ages to diagnose and treat injuries and conditions of the back and neck. Such conditions can harm a person’s ability to live and move comfortably, and we take pride in helping our patients address their pain and move forward in their lives. Neck and back conditions we treat in Central GA include: