What is Herniated Nucleus Pulposus?




If you suspect you may be suffering from a spinal condition, you are not alone. Many Americans encounter spinal conditions that cause pain, discomfort and inflammation every day. Oftentimes, this pain can be linked to a herniated nucleus pulposus, commonly referred to as a herniated or slipped disc. In fact, many Americans will experience a herniated nucleus pulposus at some point in their lives. This condition occurs when the soft, liquid-like nucleus of an intervertebral disc begins to leak out from within the disc’s hard outer casing. This often occurs as a result of the natural aging process, during which intervertebral discs regularly lose water content and become susceptible to dehydration and degeneration.

It is possible to have a herniated nucleus pulposus without being aware of it. Usually, a herniated nucleus pulposus only becomes apparent when the displaced disc material interrupts the spine’s structural integrity or begins to compress nearby nerves, ligaments and tissues. A disc with a herniated nucleus pulposus can almost always be managed or fully repaired through proper treatment.

Causes

The most frequent cause of a herniated nucleus pulposus is age-related degeneration that develops over time as the spine bears the strain and stress of everyday life. Certain factors, however, may encourage or exacerbate a herniated nucleus pulposus, such as:

  • Excess weight or obesity
  • Lack of exercise
  • Sudden injuries, such as those that may occur during a motor vehicle accident, fall or high-impact sport
  • Improperly lifting heavy objects
  • Genetic predisposition or a congenital spine disorder
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Occupations that require manual labor, physicality, standing, driving or sitting at a desk for extended periods of time
  • Degenerative disc disease and other spine-related complications

If you believe you may be at risk for a herniated nucleus pulposus, schedule a consultation today with one of the knowledgeable spine specialists at Minimally Invasive SpineCARE®. By taking necessary precautions and making minor adjustments, it is often possible to reduce the probability of worsening your herniated nucleus pulposus.

Symptoms

A herniated nucleus pulposus does not cause symptoms on its own. However, the escaped nucleus can compress nearby nerves or the spinal cord, sometimes leading to serious damage. When symptoms begin to appear, they might include:

  • Chronic pain and discomfort
  • Pain that travels the length of a nerve or radiates to the extremities
  • Numbness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Tingling or “pins-and-needles” sensations
  • Loss of reflexes

When certain nerves are compressed, a herniated nucleus pulposus may cause fever and incontinence of the bladder or bowels. If these symptoms surface, call 911 immediately as they may constitute a medical emergency.

The symptoms of a herniated nucleus pulposus are similar to those of many other serious spine and back conditions, including cancer, spinal stenosis and the degeneration of the facet joints. For this reason, it is necessary to obtain a comprehensive and clear diagnosis as soon as possible.

Our Minimally Invasive Treatment Approach

At Minimally Invasive SpineCARE®, our team of experienced spine experts regularly helps patients identify and recover from a herniated nucleus pulposus. Through personalized, patient-centric care and innovative treatment, we aim to ensure that each and every patient returns to their daily routines symptom-free.

The first step toward optimal healing is to schedule a consultation at our state-of-the-art facilities. During this initial visit, one of our experienced physicians will carefully and compassionately evaluate your medical history, physical state and symptoms. To confirm the suspected diagnosis of a herniated nucleus pulposus, an imaging test such as a CT scan, X-ray or MRI may be necessary. We also have access to advanced pain-mapping technologies, allowing your physician to locate the precise point at which your disc has become herniated. After attaining a diagnosis, we will work with you to design a customized treatment plan that is tailored to meet your unique needs and specifications.

For most patients, we encourage exploring conservative treatment options before opting for surgery. Even if you decide to undergo a surgical procedure, non-invasive methods of care will likely be used in tandem with your operation. Some conservative treatments that frequently provide substantial relief to patients sustaining a herniated nucleus pulposus include:

Medication: Over-the-counter and prescription medications can often lessen inflammation, which allows patients to begin long-term treatments like physical therapy without excessive pain or discomfort. Localized injections of pain-relieving agents can also be highly effective, with some patients experiencing respite from their symptoms for as long as 6 months after a dosage.

Physical Therapy and Exercise: It may seem counterintuitive, but extended periods of bed rest are rarely beneficial for patients suffering from a herniated nucleus pulposus. Through targeted exercise, it is possible to strengthen the abdominal muscles, lose excess pounds and increase flexibility. All of these factors can relieve strain on the spine, diminish the symptoms associated with a herniated nucleus pulposus and encourage rapid healing.

Additional Treatments: Depending on the location and severity of your herniated nucleus pulposus, certain lifestyle modifications and other non-invasive care approaches may reduce the frequency and intensity of your symptoms. Therapeutic massage, acupuncture, purchasing orthopedic footwear and maintaining proper posture can all make a difference in the lives of patients suffering from a herniated nucleus pulposus.

If conservative treatments do not provide sufficient recuperation, surgical intervention may be necessary for optimal healing. During an operation to correct a herniated nucleus pulposus, damaged intervertebral discs are repaired or replaced with artificial spacers. At Minimally Invasive SpineCARE®, our surgeons specialize in addressing herniated discs using minimally invasive techniques, which offer:

  • Shortened recovery times that encourage a speedier return to work and other daily activities
  • Less post-operative pain than traditional surgeries
  • A reduced risk of scarring or high volumes of blood loss
  • Minimal damage to surrounding muscles and soft tissues

Because our surgeons are experienced in both minimally invasive laparoscopic surgeries as well as open procedures, we are able to provide whichever operation is the best option for your unique situation. The surgical approach used will depend on several medical factors, as well as the preferences of the patient.

To understand if you are suffering from a herniated nucleus pulposus or some other spinal condition, please do not hesitate to get in touch with Minimally Invasive SpineCARE® by calling us directly at 972-255-5588 or by filling out the form on this page. We look forward to speaking with you!

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