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Herniated Discs

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Herniated Discs Surgery in Staten Island, NY

A herniated disc is an injury to the parts of the spine that keep vertebrae cushioned. A herniated disc can arise for many reasons, including lifting heavy objects or completing strenuous activities. When a disc becomes ruptured, it can cause fragments to interfere with spinal systems and nerves. This is what gives patients the debilitating symptoms they experience after slipping their discs.

Herniated discs can be treated using a variety of procedures and methods available at Richmond University Medical Center on Staten Island, NY. With an emphasis on comprehensive patient care, our team of medical professionals can assist patients with many injuries, conditions, and disorders, including spine disorder treatment. Learn more about herniated discs and the treatment options offered at our facility.

What Is a Herniated Disc?

Spinal discs include a gel-like material and sit between each vertebra to ensure they are cushioned, allowing for shock absorption during intense activities such as heavy lifting. However, discs can become damaged and potentially rupture. When a disc is herniated, a small part of the disc’s center pushes out of the disc, hitting the spinal canal and nerves.

Because there is little space in the spinal canal, this causes disc fragments to push against nerves in the spine. This is why patients with a herniated disc experience such intense pain. Herniated discs can cause many painful, debilitating symptoms, including:

Symptoms for each patient can vary depending on the size and location of the herniation. For example, herniated discs that interfere with nerves and other structures can cause debilitating back pain. However, those with a herniation that does not impact these systems may only have mild back pain. All discs in the spine are susceptible to rupture – but patients most commonly experience the injury in their lower back or neck. Those diagnosed with a herniated disc in the cervical spine may feel symptoms that are centralized to the neck, while patients may feel pain in their lower back if the injury presents itself in the lumbar spine.

Patients with certain herniated disc conditions may also experience different symptoms while completing various activities. For example, those with lower back herniation may have worsening symptoms while sitting, standing, or walking. Activities such as straightening the leg can also make pain worse. For those with a neck herniation, symptoms can grow worse after making certain neck movements.

What Causes a Herniated Disc?

Herniated discs are common and can develop for many reasons. Herniated discs are sometimes called ruptured discs, bulged discs, or slipped discs.

The most common cause of a herniated disc is injury or intense strain on the back. Older people are more likely to experience a herniated disc because bones naturally grow weaker over time. As people age, bones tend to undergo gradual wear and tear from consistent movements, motions, and activities throughout their lives. This includes the ligaments and disc materials found in the spinal cord, which can tear and become damaged. This is what causes discs to rupture seemingly out of nowhere during activities like heavy lifting.

When a disc ruptures, it has likely already become worn and damaged over time. Patients usually describe feeling mild back pain or periods of back pain before slipping their discs. Herniated discs can also be a sign of early degeneration. Those with more advanced degeneration can easily rupture their spinal discs, even through mild activities such as stretching or twisting. A family history of herniated discs can also increase the chances that a patient will develop one later in their life.

When Is Surgery Required?

For many mild cases, herniated discs can be efficiently treated through medication. These treatments can a few days or weeks to provide patients with pain relief. Medications may be prescribed to manage painful herniated disc symptoms while the injury heals.

Injection therapy can also be an effective treatment for herniated discs. This process involves injecting medications and substances directly into the affected area using a spinal needle. With the guidance of X-ray technology, physicians can target the precise location of the herniation. Some patients may also require physical therapy in conjunction with medications and injections.

Throughout treatment, it is recommended that patients limit their exercise to allow spinal nerve inflammation to diminish. However, patients should avoid bed rest and continue to complete low-level activities and painless exercises as the physician instructs. This ensures muscles and other body systems are still functioning properly while the disc heals.

Sometimes, pain can go on for an extended time or symptoms can grow worse. Patients who experience pain for more than one month even with medications and other treatments may require more extensive treatment efforts, such as surgery. Severe or worsening symptoms can also be a reason to recommend surgery as treatment, as a herniated disc can greatly decrease a patient’s quality of life. As herniated discs grow worse, they can cause more concerning symptoms, such as:

  • Heightened sensitivity
  • Extreme weakness
  • Immobility
  • Limited daily activity
  • Problems with bladder or bowel processes
  • Severe numbness

While undergoing herniated disc surgery can potentially provide relief from symptoms, this is not always the case. Patients should carefully consider their options and discuss their treatment with their physician to ensure surgery is the right choice.

Procedures and Treatments at Richmond University Medical Center

The knowledgeable and certified medical professionals at Richmond University Medical Center can diagnose and treat a variety of severe back conditions, including herniated discs. To diagnose a herniated disc, imaging tests may include X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or computed tomography (CT) scans. After determining the location and size of the herniation, physicians can craft a treatment plan that caters to the patient’s symptoms and medical history. Surgery is recommended only if the patient has not achieved relief through medications, injections, physical therapy, or other methods.

The Brain and Spine Center at Richmond University Medical Center uses state-of-the-art tools for many methods of herniated disc treatment, including surgery. The most common surgical procedure for severely herniated discs is a discectomy, in which surgeons remove a portion of the disc directly from the spine. A discectomy can be performed using minimally invasive surgery techniques to efficiently remove the damaged portion of the disc without needing a large incision. This procedure is mostly used during lumbar spine surgery, which treats herniated discs in the lower back. During surgery, a laminotomy may be performed to remove a portion of the lamina, which is the roof of the spinal canal, along with the disc, if necessary. Following the discectomy, surgeons may need to complete a spinal fusion procedure, which fuses the vertebra to stabilize it.

If a herniation is in the neck, then cervical spine surgery may be required. Incisions can be made in the front or back of the neck. Surgeons may perform a laminotomy during the procedure to remove a section of the lamina, as well as the herniation. Patients who undergo cervical spine surgery may also need a spinal fusion procedure. For cervical cases, surgeons use a metal plate and screws to close up the missing lamina area.

In some cases, a herniated disc may require urgent medical treatment, often including surgery. For example, a herniated disc can cause some patients to experience cauda equine syndrome, a rare disorder that can cause the nerves of the spinal cord’s base to swell and create pressure against essential nerves and spinal systems. When this condition is present, patients must receive emergency medical treatment and surgery. If left untreated, this can leave patients susceptible to developing severe neurological issues, physical impairments, and paralysis.

RUMC offers emergency medical services, including emergency surgery, to ensure each patient receives the medical treatment needed to reduce symptoms and avoid more serious health problems.

Seek Treatment at RUMC

Patients in the Staten Island area can receive comprehensive treatment for herniated discs and other spine disorders. With an emphasis on patient care and delivering advanced medical practices to the community, patients can efficiently diagnose and treat a variety of conditions. We offer quality medical care using the latest advancements in technology and information. To learn more about herniated disc treatment and other services we offer at our locations on Staten Island, contact us today or make an appointment.