Updated: Mar 25, 2022
Disc damage is a common cause of back and neck pain, and like a lot of spine problems, it tends to become more common as we age. Evan O’Brien, MD, and our team at Woodbury Spine use advanced technology to diagnose and treat herniated discs and other disc problems, customizing each treatment plan based on the unique needs of the patient.
Although most disc problems don’t require surgery, they should never be ignored or left to heal on their own. Prompt medical evaluation and treatment helps prevent permanent nerve damage in addition to giving you much-needed relief. Here’s how Dr. O’Brien can help.
Causes of disc damage
Spinal discs are like nature’s shock absorbers, providing a protective cushion between each pair of vertebrae. When a disc is damaged, it can press on surrounding nerves, causing pain near your spine and anywhere along the nerve pathway — even into your arms and legs.
Disc damage often happens when your spine is subjected to a lot of excess strain. Lifting a heavy object is a common cause of disc herniation, and sometimes a disc can be injured during a fall or other accident.
Other times, disc damage happens as a result of wear and tear on your spine. Degenerative disc disease happens when your discs lose some of their natural fluid and “plumpness.” These discs are more subject to herniation and rupture, which is tearing in the disc’s tough outer layer.
Lifestyle factors can also cause or contribute to disc damage. These factors include things like:
Standing for long periods of time
Spine conditions, like scoliosis
Your treatment — and how quickly your disc heals — will depend a lot on what caused the damage in the first place.
Treating a damaged disc
For mild disc damage, conservative options like physical therapy and medication may be all that’s needed to give your disc a chance to heal. When those options don’t provide enough relief, Dr. O’Brien may recommend steroid injections to relieve inflammation or radiofrequency ablation to block painful nerve signals.
In more severe cases, surgery is often the best option. Dr. O’Brien offers three techniques for disc repair: microdiscectomy, discectomy and fusion, and artificial disc replacement.
Microdiscectomy removes the damaged part of the disc that’s pressing on the surrounding nerves. Dr. O’Brien offers both minimally invasive microdiscectomy using a tiny incision, as well as open discectomy that uses an incision a little more than an inch long.
Discectomy and fusion
Like microdiscectomy, this technique also removes the damaged disc. Then, Dr. O’Brien uses bone grafts to fuse two vertebrae together, preventing painful friction between the bones. This technique can be especially effective in people suffering from advanced degenerative disc disease.
Artificial disc replacement
In artificial disc replacement, Dr. O’Brien removes your natural disc and replaces it with a prosthetic disc. This technique is usually recommended when you have significant disc damage without arthritis or nerve compression.
Bottom line: Don’t ignore your back pain
Disc-related chronic back and neck pain rarely resolve on their own, but medical treatment can help. To learn how we can help you find relief for your painful symptoms (and even prevent them from recurring), call our office in Woodbury, New Jersey, or book an appointment online today.