The intervertebral discs are anatomical structures that are intercalated between the vertebral bodies. They provide flexibility to the spine, while helping to cushion the loads it receives.
An intervertebral disc is made up of an external part called annulus, which is fibrous in consistency and arranged in layers, and an internal part or nucleus pulposus, which is more gelatinous in consistency as it contains more water.
Over the years, and often due to intercurrent problems throughout life, the discs tend to undergo disc degeneration. A dehydration of the central part or nucleus pulposus takes place, at the same time that the quality of the fibers of the annulus deteriorates, being able to crack or to present breaks or fissures.
When a fissure is wide enough, part of the material of the nucleus may come out to the outside, which receives the name of disc herniation or disc herniation.
If the herniated disc material or disc herniation comes into contact with one of the nerve roots, it can produce a very intense inflammation in the nerve, giving rise to pain that radiates, generally down the leg or down the arm (depending on the location of the problem, lumbar or cervical). This is called radiculalgia. It is familiarly known by the term “sciatica”. It is very often accompanied by pain and muscle spasm in the lower back.
If compression of the nerve root is produced by the hernia, the problems of blood supply to the nerve itself begin, and this can deteriorate and be affected. This is called radiculopathy. In these cases the pain may be accompanied by tingling, loss of sensitivity in the area of pain, and even loss of strength in the affected limb.
Many times herniated discs are found in patients who undergo an MRI (MRI) or a tomography or scan (CT), by chance. The presence of one or more herniated discs in an image does not necessarily mean that there is pain. In fact, the pain may be due to another cause, such as osteoarthritis of the spinal joints.
On the other hand, the finding of a herniated disc in a patient suffering from radicular pain or “sciatica” does not necessarily imply that surgery should be performed to remove the hernia. Prior to surgery there are other treatments that can be definitive, such as infiltrations, intradiscal treatments, pulsed radiofrequency, and others.
Treatment of the Herniated Disc
At Clínica Vertebra we are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of the herniated disc. We offer different treatment options depending on the severity of the hernia.