At this very moment, about 31 million Americans are dealing with back pain, including pain involving their discs. Back pain is so common, roughly 80% of people will wind up experiencing it at some point in their lives.
At Vulcan Pain Management in Birmingham, Alabama, Victor Mendoza, MD, offers state-of-the-art treatment options to relieve disc-related back pain, including nonsurgical and surgical options for optimal symptom relief. If you have disc-related back pain, here’s how he can help you.
Common disc problems
Your discs are spongy cushions located between each pair of vertebrae. Composed of a dense, gel-like material surrounded by a tough outer “shell,” discs provide shock absorption, protecting your vertebrae and your nerves from jolts and impacts. Plus, they play a role in helping your spine stay flexible and mobile.
Disc problems can happen anywhere along your spine, but they’re more common in your neck and lower back — the two areas that are subjected to the most movement. Two of the most common disc problems are herniated discs and disc degeneration.
Normally, disc borders don’t extend beyond the edges of the vertebrae, but sometimes, a disc can shift or “slip,” extending beyond the edge of the bone. This is called a herniated disc, and without treatment, it can wind up tearing or rupturing. About 2% of adults suffer from disc herniation every year.
Herniated and ruptured discs can press on spinal nerves where they exit the spinal column before traveling to your arms, legs, or other parts of your body. As a result, you can have pain in your back or neck in addition to pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness anywhere along the path of the nerve.
Disc degeneration happens when your disc material starts to degrade, wear away, or break down. It’s a lot more common as we get older, and it’s also more common among people who:
- Are obese
- Do a lot of repeated heavy lifting
Arthritis and bone spurs in your spine also increase your risk of disc degeneration.
As your discs degenerate, the space between your vertebrae decreases, which means it’s easier for nerves to get “pinched” or compressed. The symptoms of degenerated discs are similar to those you’d experience with a herniated disc. As with herniated discs, those symptoms can happen in your back or anywhere along a nerve path.
Treating disc pain
Disc pain can happen in different ways and cause different symptoms. At Vulcan Pain Management, our team customizes every treatment plan based on each patient’s needs, adjusting treatment as needed to provide ongoing, effective pain relief.
Disc pain treatment typically begins conservatively, with options like:
- Lifestyle changes, like losing weight or quitting smoking
- Ergonomic changes at work and home
- Ice and heat therapy
- Medication to relieve pain, inflammation, and muscle spasms
- Physical therapy and gentle stretching
- Epidural injections to reduce inflammation and pain
- Chiropractic adjustment
- Soft collar to support the neck
- Intradiscal electrothermal therapy to strengthen disc structure
If conservative options aren’t successful in providing long-term symptom relief, surgery might be a better option. Our team offers several surgeries for disc problems, depending on what’s causing your symptoms, including these four.
Discectomy uses special techniques to remove all or part of a herniated or damaged disc, relieving nerve pressure and the symptoms it causes.
Laminotomy surgery removes part of a spine bone (called the lamina) to relieve pressure on the spinal nerves.
Spinal fusion uses rods, plates, and other devices to join or fuse two or more vertebrae, eliminating painful movement in that small portion of the spine.
Also called disc replacement surgery, arthroplasty removes the damaged disc and replaces it with an artificial disc that’s designed to work as a natural disc.
Surgeries are performed in a hospital using general anesthesia. Afterward, we may recommend physical therapy to help restore mobility and strength in your spine.
Get relief for your disc symptoms
Disc pain may be common, but that doesn’t mean you have to live with it. Our team can find the right treatment for you, so you can relieve your pain and other symptoms while preserving spine health.
Call Vulcan Pain Management or book an appointment online today to learn what’s causing your back or neck pain and how we can help relieve it.