Herniated Disc Illustration

Herniated Disc Overview

A herniated disc is a condition in which the tough outer
wall of an intervertebral disc has been weakened, allowing
the softer insides to deform the shape of the disc.

In some cases, a herniated disc will press against the spinal nerves, causing pain. If you experience
debilitating back pain, or back and leg pain, due to a herniated disc, please schedule a consultation
with North American Spine and discover how AccuraScope® D.N.D. surgery can help you put chronic
pain behind you.

Herniated Disc Overview

Anatomy of a Herniated Disc

An intervertebral disc has two main parts: an outer shell of fibrous cartilage (the annulus fibrosis) and an inner filling of a jelly-like material (the nucleus pulposus). The outer wall of an intervertebral disc can become weakened for a variety of reasons. As people age, the fibrous material becomes more brittle. Excessive strain can rupture the annulus fibrosis. Poor diet and exercise habits can also weaken the disc.

Regardless of the cause, once the tough shell of the disc is weakened or cracked, the soft gel of the nucleus pulposus can deform the disc. Once deformation occurs, the disc may irritate or pinch one or more spinal nerves, causing pain.

Although any one of the intervertebral discs can become damaged, herniated discs are more common in the lumbar region of the spine. If you suffer from chronic low back pain caused by a herniated or bulging disc, the minimally invasive AccuraScope D.N.D. surgery pioneered by North American Spine may be able to relieve your pain. To learn more about bulging and herniated disc treatments please contact us at 877.474.BACK.

“There was instant relief”

John R., Age 49, Location: TX. Diagnosis: L5 Herniation. Pre-Surgery Lifestyle: Generalized depression, chronic back pain, diminished sexual response.

Post-Surgery Outcome:100%. I had been waiting, in pain, for 17 years, for this procedure. My general mood has elevated and I am pain-free. To wake up in the morning without pain is such a quality of life improvement, that I cannot express in words the joy I feel today. There was instant relief and I have not used any pain medication. No more Motrin needed. Thank you.

Herniated Disc Information

What is a Herniated Disc?
A herniated disc—also known as a bulging disc, ruptured disc or prolapsed disc—results when a cushioning disc between two of your spinal bones loses its typical shape, bursts open and releases its soft core material. Certain underlying conditions in your discs can lead to the onset of this problem, which can produce symptoms that range in severity from nonexistent to debilitating.

What is a Herniated Disc?

Leakage of the core material in a spinal disc, called the nucleus pulposus, occurs when pressure or structural weakness triggers a rupture that extends through all of the layers in the disc covering. Shape distortion occurs when only some of the covering’s layers rupture or tear. If the disc or its leaking nucleus pushes against your spinal cord or nearby spinal nerves, you can develop a number of nerve-related symptoms. The vast majority of herniated or bulging spinal discs occur in the cervical spine (neck) or the lumbar spine (lower back).

Herniated discs are sometimes referred to by other names that describe some of their more prominent features. For example, because of the ruptures that appear in the disc surface, people sometimes use the term ruptured disc. Because of the potential for the disc to bulge or spread, others may use the term bulging disc. Because of the loss of disc height associated with the condition, you also may see the term prolapsed disc. Additional familiar terms based on physical characteristics of a herniated disc include torn disc and slipped disc.

Use our website to learn more about herniated disc symptoms, causes, prevention and treatment options. When you are ready, send us your MRI for a free review. We’ll recommend the most appropriate, conservative treatment for your specific case – whether or not it includes the 40 procedures we provide.

Herniated Neck Disc
Neck and back pain, as well as symptoms in the shoulders, arms and hands frequently results from a herniated neck (or cervical) disc. The disc becomes herniated if the disc is damaged and begins to leak its soft core material into the spinal canal. Often, the leaking core material puts pressure on upper spinal cord and/or nerve roots, which can lead to various painful or uncomfortable symptoms including pain, numbness, tingling and muscle weakness.

Discs in the lumbar spine (lower back) are more prone to herniation than the cervical spine, but injury and conditions associated with aging – arthritis and degenerative disc disease – can compromise the health of your upper spine, leading to herniation. How and where you experience pain will help indicate what disc(s) may be damaged and what nerve roots are being affected.

Consider that you have eight pairs of nerve roots in your cervical spine, known as C1-C8. Every area of your upper body is served by one of these nerve roots, so if you have a herniated cervical disc, you could experience pain, numbness, tingling or weakness in your:

  • Head and neck (C1-C2)
  • Diaphragm (C3)
  • Shoulders, arms, and hands (C4, C7-C8)
  • Wrists (C5- C6)

While you may think these symptoms represent your “new normal,” you have a number of treatment options available to manage your condition depending on both the severity and the location of the herniation.

Most physicians first will recommend a conservative approach, such as hot/cold compresses, medication, exercise or physical therapy. Lifestyle changes, such as smoking cessation or weight reduction, also should be explored.

But if your pain persists, minimally invasive spine surgery may be your best course of treatment.

Herniated Back Disc
Pain in your middle or lower back may be the result of a herniated back disc. As we age, our intervertebral discs – joint cartilage between the vertebrae in the spine that serve as cushions – can weaken and tear. When this happens, the material inside the disc can leak into the spinal canal, putting pressure on the sensory nerve root and even the spinal cord. Pain or discomfort results, not just where the disc is affected but in other parts of the body as well.

Known as L1-L5, your lumbar (lower) back is the part of the spine that gives you the most mobility and, as part of that, it sustains the most wear and tear. Your sciatic nerve, consisting of five spinal nerve roots, exit the spine through the lumbar region and, after grouping together as a single nerve cluster, travel down both legs to the tips of your toes. If you have a herniated lumbar disc, it may be compressing the sciatic nerve, which could result in pain originating in your lower back and radiating through your buttocks, legs and feet. In addition to pain, you may experience numbness and/or weakness. Most people experience these symptoms, known in total as sciatica, on only one side of their bodies.

If you think you have a herniated disc, see a physician for a complete examination, diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan. While he or she is likely to begin with a conservative course of treatment to manage the pain while strengthening the core and back muscles, your condition may require surgery if this course of treatment fails to give you the relief you need.

Preventing Disc Herniation
The most important thing you can do to prevent disc herniation is to reduce the stress you place on your spine. Excess weight, for example, places undo pressure on the spine that, over time, can lead to disc deterioration. If you already exercise, remembering to stretch before you begin can help prevent sudden injury. If you smoke, quitting now minimizes the long-term disc deterioration associated with cigarette use. Finally, being mindful of your posture and correcting yourself when slumping or stooping your shoulders can keep the spine in its proper position.

As we age, our bodies begin to show signs of wear and tear – and because of its vital role in supporting our weight and enabling our movement, the spine is vulnerable to deterioration over time. While we can’t stop the aging process, we can take steps to minimize the chances of herniated discs and other spinal conditions. These steps include:

  • Improving your posture
  • Quitting smoking
  • Managing your weight
  • Properly stretching before exercise
  • Staying physically active through exercise

Do you think you have a Herniated Disc already? Read our Spine Pain Prevention Updates.

Causes of a Herniated Disc
The weakness and excessive pressure associated with a herniated or ruptured disc most commonly occur as a result of reduced water content in the nucleus pulposus, typically associated with advancing age. Other potential causes of a prolapsed disc include habitual motions—such as heavy lifting—that place high levels of stress on your spine; accidents or injuries that damage your discs or vertebrae; and any movement that forces your spine to deal with pressure beyond its normal limits.

In addition, obesity and smoking can increase your risks for developing the condition. People with weakened discs can develop a prolapse even when participating in activities that usually place no excessive pressure on the spinal column.

If you develop a herniated disc in your neck, you may experience shoulder or arm pain of varying severity; unusual nerve sensations such as burning, numbness or tingling; and, significant muscle weakness. If you develop a herniated or bulging disc in your lower back, symptoms of your condition may include the nerve sensations and muscle weakness that accompany prolapses in your neck, as well as varying degrees of pain that extend to your buttock, thigh or lower leg.

If you do such things as cough, sneeze or move your back in a way that increases nerve irritation, the pain associated with herniation in both your neck and lower back also can extend into the nearest limb. Many people, however, develop ruptured discs that produce no noticeable symptoms.

If a damaged disc in your lower back presses against a cluster of nerves known as the cauda equina, you can develop rare, medically serious symptoms such as numbness in the skin associated with your genitals and anus, profound leg weakness and loss of your normal ability to control your bladder or bowels.

Herniated Disc Symptoms
Just as every spine is unique, every individual with a herniated disc will experience slightly different symptoms; some people experience no symptoms at all.

First, symptoms depend on the severity of nerve damage or irritation resulting from the herniation. Is the disc compressing the spine? Where is the herniated disc located? Herniated discs in the upper (cervical) spine generally cause neck pain, headache, and/or tingling, numbness or weakness from the shoulders to the hands.

Herniated discs in the lower back (lumbar) can generate pain that travels down one side of the body from where the sciatic nerve exits the spine wall the way to the toes. Because the disc is putting pressure on the sciatic nerve, these symptoms together are known as sciatica.

Discogenic Pain
With a herniated disc, the outer wall (annulus fibrosus) often has been torn; the outer third of the annulus fibrosus includes nerve fibers that, when damaged, will cause pain. Further irritation of the nerve fibers can be triggered by contact with the inflammation-producing proteins inside the disc’s inner core.

When this happens, patients may experience the most common symptom of herniated disc called discogenic pain, because it starts in the damaged disc itself.

What is Discogenic Pain?

Discogenic literally means “originating from the disc,” so discogenic pain is defined as pain that originates from a damaged spinal disc. A herniated or bulging disc is one of the most common causes of discogenic pain. (Another cause is the degeneration – or natural wearing-down – of the disc which can irritate the nerves.)

The most telling symptom of discogenic pain is what is NOT involved: it tend to be an achy pain that does not extend into your lower leg or arm, and does not reduce the function of your extremities. You may feel pain, numbness or tingling in your thigh or buttock area. If you feel pain in your leg or arm as well, it could be possible that you have multiple conditions and therefore multiple sets of symptoms.

Some activities may aggravate discogenic pain, such as sitting, bending or other activities that compress your spine. Even sneezing or coughing can make it worse.

Sciatica from Herniated Disc
Typically, patients with a herniated lumbar disc will experience sciatica, a group of symptoms resulting from compression of the sciatic nerve.

Consisting of five spinal nerve roots, the sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body. These nerve roots exit the spine separately and, after grouping together as a single nerve cluster, travel down both legs to the tips of the toes.

When one or more of these nerve roots is compressed, you may feel pain originating in your lower back and radiating through your buttocks, legs and feet. In addition to pain, you may experience numbness and/or weakness. Most people experience these symptoms, known in total as sciatica, on only one side of their bodies.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, see your physician so that you can be properly diagnosed and begin your treatment plan.

Or Read More About Sciatica

Pain, Numbness and Tingling
Think of the discs in your spine as shock absorbers. They give your spine flexibility, mobility and the ability to bear weight. Over the years, however, these discs can begin to weaken and may be more vulnerable to injury. Sometimes, the discs have so deteriorated that they break open, or herniate, and the soft inner contents of the disc leak into the spinal column, putting pressure on the surrounding nerves and even the spine itself.

When the spine or the nerves are compressed, they send “help” signals that take the form of pain, numbness and tingling along the nerve path, as well as muscle weakness. These symptoms, which can be experienced in the neck, back, arms, shoulders, hands, legs and feet, indicate that something is wrong and should be evaluated by a physician immediately.

For example, if you feel prickling or tingling feelings (“pins and needles”) in your buttocks, legs and/or feet, this may indicate a herniated disc in the lumbar (lower) back. If you experience burning sensations in your arms or aches and discomfort in your shoulders, this could suggest that you have a herniated disc in your cervical spine (neck).

Once you have been fully evaluated and examined by your physician, possibly including an MRI or CT scan to confirm the diagnosis of herniated disc, your first course of treatment will generally be conservative, or non-surgical. In the event that a conservative treatment plan does not provide you with relief and the ability to resume normal activities, minimally invasive spine surgery may be the next step.

Muscle Weakness
If you have a herniated disk, you probably have experienced pain, tingling or numbness in one or several areas of your body, depending on the location and severity of the herniation. Many people also suffer from muscle weakness, a more severe symptom stemming from constant pressure on the nerve roots in your spine. These nerve roots transmit messages to and from the brain, through the spine and to the rest of your body. If a herniated disc has compressed these important communicators, your muscles may not be receiving the messages the brain is trying to send so your muscles don’t respond in kind and may even feel weak. You may find that your basic motor function has diminished.

While these symptoms may feel alarming, proper treating the underlying cause is usually effective in relieving the symptoms and resuming your regular lifestyle.

Once you have been fully evaluated and examined by your physician, possibly including an MRI or CT scan to confirm the diagnosis of herniated disc, your first course of treatment will generally be conservative, or non-surgical. In the event that a conservative treatment plan does not provide you with relief and the ability to resume normal activities, minimally invasive spine surgery may be the next step.

Cauda Equina Syndrome
While pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness are uncomfortable symptoms of a herniated disc, cauda equine syndrome results when the cauda equine nerve roots become compressed. These nerve roots extend from the bottom of the spinal cord into your lower back. If they become compressed by a lumbar herniated disc, a traumatic injury, narrowing of the spinal column (known as stenosis), or even a spinal tumor, you may experience loss of bowel and bladder control. Further complications of cauda equine syndrome include permanent paralysis of the legs.

Key symptoms that would suggest cauda equine syndrome include:

  • Difficulty urinating
  • Loss of bladder and/or bowel control
  • Numbness in the groin and pelvic areas
  • Loss of mobility and/or muscle weakness in the legs
  • Sciatica
  • Deep pain/throbbing in the lower back and extremities

If you have any of these symptoms, call your physician immediately or go to the emergency room.

After taking a complete medical history and doing a physical examination, your physician likely will prescribe an MRI or CT scan to get a comprehensive look at your spine, organs and other tissues. Time is critical; if you wait to seek medical attention, you could endure permanent damage. If recommended by your physician, minimally invasive surgery can correct the source of compression and provide you the long-term relief you need.

Herniated Disc Diagnosis
While it may seem easy to make a diagnosis about a possible herniated disc by comparing your symptoms with those typically listed, an accurate diagnosis should be rendered by a physician and must take into account the severity and location of the symptoms. You may be experiencing neck pain and numbness in the fingers, which could indicate a herniated disk in your cervical spine (C1-C8). Or, you may feel significant lower back pain, which would suggest herniation in your lumbar spine. Regardless of location, disks become herniated when they lose their shape and/or burst open, releasing the soft core material (pulposus) into the spinal column. The pressure this material exerts on the spinal cord and/or surrounding nerves can lead to pain, discomfort or unusual nerve sensations.

Thanks to advanced diagnostic methods, reaching an accurate diagnosis means you can start on the road to recovery faster and with more confidence about the best possible outcome. Be prepared for your physician to:

  • Provide a thorough evaluation of your medical background
  • Conduct a physical examination to identify the source of your pain
  • Prescribe an MRI or a CT scan to confirm any structural abnormalities of your spine that would confirm the diagnosis and suggest the level of severity

Why An MRI Scan Is Important

The best way for a physician to properly diagnosis a herniated disc in your spine is through magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, which will take detailed, two-dimensional pictures of your spine, organs, muscles and soft tissue. This detailed view gives your physician the “full picture,” which leads to a more accurate diagnosis and a more effective treatment plan. MRI scans are used regularly to diagnose neck and spine conditions.

If you have never had an MRI scan, there are a few things you should know:

  • You won’t be subjected to radiation, and you won’t feel any pain
  • Only the “problem area” is scanned
  • The results are extremely accurate

If your physician requests an MRI scan to confirm diagnosis, this will involve your lying in an MRI machine, which looks like a tube, for up to an hour while the designated areas of your back are scanned. It will feel a bit tedious, but you should not experience any discomfort.

The radiologist and your physician will evaluate the images of the damaged disc as well as the muscles and tissues around it; often, the cause of the herniation can be determined as well. From there, you and your physician will decide if a conservative treatment plan is most appropriate, of surgery represents the most effective solution.

Herniated Disc F.A.Q.
Q: I have many of the symptoms associated with a herniated disk? What should I do now?

A: First, see your physician so that you don’t inadvertently cause further harm to the affected area. After taking a complete medical history and doing a physical examination, your physician may prescribe a conservative course of treatment, including prescription or over-the-counter medications to help manage the pain. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, though, your physician may refer you for an MRI or CT scan. With those results in hand, your physician will then recommend a treatment plan.

MRI Review: Click here to get answers!

Q:What causes a herniated disc?

A: There is no single cause of disc herniation. As we age, everyday wear and tear can take its toll on our spines. Putting too much strain on the back, through a single event or repeated activities or through traumatic injury, also can cause herniation – as can traumatic injury. Once the disc is weakened and then pressured, the outer area can tear, allowing the disc’s core material to leak and put pressure on surrounding nerves.

Q: How can I relieve the pain of a herniated disc?

A: Many people will try home remedies before consulting a physician, such as over-the-counter pain relievers, rest and hot/cold compresses. While these may alleviate your short-term symptoms, it is important to have the root cause of your pain diagnosed by a physician. Once the physician has taken your full medical history, physically examined your spine and other affected areas and, possibly, prescribed an MRI or CT, he or she will have the information necessary to accurately diagnose your condition and recommend a treatment plan.

Q: Are there standard symptoms associated with a herniated disc?

A: Most people with a herniated disc will experience varying degrees of pain, numbness, weakness in the arms and/or legs, or tingling. Some people will experience a variety of these symptoms. And others may experience no symptoms at all. Every case is unique because every spine is unique.

Q: I’ve heard many different terms about back pain and I’m confused. Is a bulging disk the same as a herniated disk?

A: When the inside area of the disc, called the nucleus pulposus, is disrupted and starts pushing on the outer wall of disc, the disc will bulge. This may result in pressure on the spinal cord or the sciatic nerve exiting the spinal cord.

When there is a tear in the outer ring, called an annulus fibrosus, of an intervertebral disc, the soft core material can leak through the tear and place pressure on the spinal cord or sciatic nerve exiting the spinal cord.

Herniated Disc Treatment
Just as every spine is unique, every individual with a herniated disc will experience slightly different symptoms; some people experience no symptoms at all. First, symptoms depend on the severity of nerve damage or irritation resulting from the herniation. Is the disc compressing the spine? Where is the herniated disc located? Herniated discs in the upper (cervical) spine generally cause neck pain, headache, and/or tingling, numbness or weakness from the shoulders to the hands. Herniated discs in the lower back (lumbar) can generate pain that travels down one side of the body from where the sciatic nerve exits the spine wall the way to the toes.

Should your physician diagnose a herniated disc, your treatment plan will be based on the location of the herniation, how severely it is compressing your spinal cord and/or nerves and the symptoms you are experiencing.

Lumbar and Cervical Herniated Discs

Due to the wear and tear we impose on the discs in our neck (cervical) and lower back (lumbar), these areas are most susceptible to disc herniation. Consider that your lumbar spine bears the responsibility of supporting your body weight and accommodating a wide range of motion including bending, lifting, walking, turning and twisting. Your cervical spine (neck) supports your head and its ability to turn in several directions. Both areas are worked, if not stressed, on a daily basis. Over the years, discs in your lumbar and/or cervical spine can begin to deteriorate, leaving them vulnerable to herniation.

First Step: Get to the Cause of Your Symptoms
Your physician cannot provide the most optimal treatment plan for your herniated disc without evaluating its severity and understanding exactly where the source of the pain is.

That’s why he or she likely will order diagnostic imaging, which provides a two-dimensional view of the spine as well as surrounding muscle and tissues. Physicians most frequently use either magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scans to diagnose problems in the spine.

Combined with your medical history and physical examination, the results of your diagnostic imaging give your physician the information needed to tailor a treatment plan to your specific needs.

Before Surgery: Conservative Treatment
Depending on the severity of your disc herniation, your physician will likely recommend a conservative course of treatment first; spinal surgery, though very effective, should only be considered after non-surgical therapy proves to be ineffective in giving you the relief you desire.

To take pressure off the spine and help relieve symptoms you may be experiencing, from pain and muscle weakness to numbness and tingling, your physician may recommend one or more of the following:

  • Going to physical therapy to learn appropriate stretches and exercises to decompress the spine and strengthen your core muscles
  • Bed rest
  • Hot and/or cold compresses
  • Prescription or over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Epidural steroid injections

While it may seem counter-intuitive to suggest physical activity when you’re already experiencing pain, physicians typically recommend exercise for relief of symptoms associated with disc herniation in the neck or ack. Before you begin any form of physical therapy, check with your physician to ensure your activities are appropriate for your unique condition.

Once you are ready to begin exercising, there are a number of activities your physician or physical therapist will likely recommend to help relieve your symptoms while strengthening your core muscles to prevent future problems. These might include:

  • Aerobic exercise to help lose any extra weight that could be putting undo pressure on your spine.
  • Stretching, such as yoga, Pilates, or Tai Chi, to help with spinal flexibility.
  • Balance work, using a stability ball or mini-trampoline, to strengthen core muscles while pumping oxygen – a natural healer – to your herniated disc.

So that you do not inadvertently worsen your symptoms, do not begin a new exercise regimen until you have talked with your physician or a licensed physical therapist.

Physical Therapy
Many patients successfully manage the symptoms associated with herniated discs through physical therapy. Depending on the nature and severity of your disc herniation, your physician may prescribe a course of physical therapy sessions to relieve your symptoms while strengthening your spine.

If your physician prescribes physical therapy, it likely will include a combination of exercise, lifestyle management and non-invasive treatments to alleviate muscle spasm.

Exercises may include:

  • Stability exercises designed to strengthen your core muscles, such as sit-ups or balancing activities on a stability ball, to prevent future injury to your back and neck
  • Stretching to elongate the muscles, enhance flexibility and reduce stiffness

Lifestyle management may include:

  • Losing excess weight through low-impact activities like water aerobics, swimming, walking or cycling
  • Smoking cessation (since smoking can cause disc deterioration)

Non-invasive treatments to relieve muscle spasms may include:

  • Deep tissue massage aimed at relieving muscle spasms
  • Posture-improving exercises
  • Alternating hot and cold compresses
  • Hydrotherapy (sitting in a hot tub or whirlpool)
  • Ultrasound therapy to stimulate blood flow and relax muscles
  • Electrode therapy (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or TENS)

Despite your best efforts, however, physical therapy may not relieve your symptoms. The next step may be to explore minimally invasive spinal surgery, which can be an effective way to correct the core causes of your pain without the additional complications associated with traditional open-back spine surgery.

Minimally Invasive Surgery Options
Most people will achieve relief of their symptoms by following a conservative course of treatment. However, for those whose disc herniation is severe, their symptoms may not diminish and their quality of life is compromised. Fortunately, minimally invasive spinal surgery represents an effective way to correct the source of the symptoms and give patients the best long-term outcomes.

When it comes to spinal surgery to correct nerve compression caused by a herniated disc, there are many different types which vary in the degree of complexity and invasiveness.

An open spine discectomy, during which the entire herniated disc is removed and the spine is fused, is a very common surgery.

Minimally Invasive Surgery Offers Many Important Benefits

Thanks to medical advancement, many of the spine procedures performed today can be done using a minimally invasive approach – even discectomies and spinal fusion! Minimally invasive spine surgery may reduce recovery time, minimize post-operative pain and/or discomfort, and improve the final outcome for many cases including degenerative discs, fractures and herniated disks, spinal tumors, kyphosis (“Dowager’s Hump”) and even scoliosis.

Minimally invasive spine surgery (or MISS) is a general term for a group of procedures performed through small incisions. MISS has generally been found to have equivalent or better outcomes with fewer complications and lower risk than open surgery, which requires more anesthesia, large incisions, muscle stripping, a long hospital stay and a longer recover period. With minimally invasive spine surgery, patients experience:

  • One (or a few) tiny scars instead of one large scar
  • Shorter hospital stay – may be performed outpatient in many cases
  • Reduced post-operative pain
  • Less blood loss during surgery
  • Reduced risk of infection
  • Shorter recovery time
  • Faster return to daily activities, including work

Unlike traditional, open back surgery, where the incision is five to six inches long and can damage normal tissue, minimally invasive spine surgery is performed through a small incision.

Common Minimally Invasive Approaches

North American Spine’s partner physicians specialize in the minimally invasive treatment of herniated discs through a variety of techniques. Common approaches are:

  • AccuraScope Procedure for the Lumbar Spine: using an advanced approach, the specialist will enter the spinal canal at its natural opening at the base of the spine, allowing access to diagnose and treat herniated discs at multiple levels within the lumbar spine in one short outpatient procedure. The AccuraScope approach provides a less invasive alternative to traditional minimally invasive spine surgery.
  • Minimally Invasive Cervical Discectomy: the specialist inserts a small, hollow needle into the center of the disc, allowing a laser fiber to shrink the disc and seal the herniation
  • Minimally Invasive Thoracic Discectomy: similar to the cervical discectomy, the specialist inserts a small, hollow needle into the center of the disc, to allow a laser fiber to shrink the disc and seal the tear
  • Laminotomy or Laminectomy: if a herniated or bulging disc has become too large to be treated with an AccuraScope procedure or discectomy, then the specialist may remove some or all of the lamina (piece of the vertebra) to allow the herniated disc to expand, and relieve the pain caused by the pressure.

There is no single procedure that is best for everyone. Consult with a minimally invasive spine expert at North American Spine of America to start building your customized treatment plan today.

Traditional Herniated Disc Surgery
Physicians often will recommend traditional open-neck or open-back disc surgery to correct herniated or bulging discs. It is important to understand the risks associated with open-back surgery, and compare the procedure to minimally invasive spinal surgery.

Open spine surgery is a complicated, time-consuming procedure requiring hospital admission and the administration of general anesthesia. Depending on the location of the herniated disc, the surgery will make a lengthy scare – as long as six inches – in the neck, back or abdomen in order to remove the herniated disc. This means cutting through other tissue, and even bone, to get to the affected area. Sometimes, he or she will need to move major organs aside to access the spine. As you can imagine, the recovery from open spine surgery can be long and painful due to the trauma imposed on your soft tissue, organs, muscles and bones. While these types of surgeries are generally successful, they do involve potential complications and risks including:

  • Possible complications associated with general anesthesia
  • Use of hardware and spinal fusion to stabilize the spine after removal of the affected disc(s)
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Excessive scar tissue formation from a large incision, which can introduce new problems
  • A lengthy recovery period ranging from weeks to months, and possibly years
  • Possibility that back or neck pain will not be resolved

Am I A Candidate For Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery?
Today, the majority of spine conditions can be treated with a minimally invasive procedure. In some instances, however, your condition may require a more traditional approach.

Your condition is unique to you, so it is important that you and your doctor develop a customized treatment plan best suited for your condition. This means not just focusing on one specific solution, as each spine condition may require a different or various techniques.

How do you know whether a minimally invasive or traditional spine surgery is right for you? It depends on your spine specialist’s evaluation of your unique case.

It also will depend on the comfort level of your spine specialist. If he or she has trained and become experienced with minimally invasive surgical techniques, he/she will be aware of more solutions using these advanced approaches. Be sure you understand your specialist’s training and experience, and possibly to get a second opinion. After all, it is your spine.

Before undergoing any surgery, be sure to discuss with your doctor:

  • All risks associated with the procedure
  • Your alternatives, such as no surgery or a more invasive procedure
  • What exactly this procedure will and won’t accomplish: will additional procedures be needed to correct other problems that have been identified or is this procedure intended to correct all identified pain causes?
  • His or her experience with similar procedures (typically the more the better)

Get Started: Free MRI Review

If you know you have a herniated or bulging disc, the next best step is to find out your specific options for treating it.

North American Spine works with leading spine experts who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions like sciatica. The first step is to register for more information. You will be assigned to a patient coordinator who will be able to review your medical history, answer your questions and guide you through the journey toward relief.

Fill out the form on this page to get started.

The second step is to submit your MRI or CT scan report for a free review. This will allow the medical team at North American Spine to understand your condition and provide a recommendation – which may or may not include a minimally invasive treatment like the AccuraScope procedure or one of the many other procedures offered by North American Spine. If you haven’t had a recent MRI, you can request one from your primary care physician.