What is a herniated disc?

A herniated disc, also known as a slipped disc or a ruptured disc, is a common cause of back pain. It’s a condition in which the soft, gel-like center of a spinal disc bulges out through a tear in the outer layer of the disc (1). This can occur in any part of the spine, but is most common in the lower back and neck.

There are two types of herniated discs:

1. Herniated nucleus pulposus: This type of herniated disc occurs when the soft, gel-like center of the disc (the nucleus pulposus) bulges out through a tear in the outer layer of the disc (the annulus fibrosus). This can put pressure on the spinal nerve roots and cause pain.
2. Herniated annulus fibrosus: This type of herniated disc occurs when the outer layer of the disc (the annulus fibrosus) bulges out, but the nucleus pulposus remains in place. This is less common and may not cause as much pain as a herniated nucleus pulposus.

Herniated discs can be diagnosed through a combination of physical examination, imaging tests, and nerve function tests. Physical examination may include a review of the patient’s medical history, a physical examination of the spine, and neurological tests to assess nerve function. Imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scans, and MRI scans can help to visualize the spine and confirm the presence of a herniated disc. Nerve function tests such as electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies can help to determine the extent of nerve damage and to determine the most appropriate treatment options.

 

Dr. Raj Desai