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Herniated Discs

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Learn more about Herniated Discs and how Los Angeles Pain Associates can manage your symptoms.

Your spinal column is made up of vertebrae and discs. The discs are a flattened oval shape with a soft center. Discs act as a cushion between the vertebrae, helping to absorb impact along the spinal column.

  • The center, soft portion of the disc can rupture
  • This rupture is called a herniated disc
  • These are most often located in the lower back, between fourth and fifth vertebrae



It is possible to have a herniated disc without experiencing any symptoms. If the herniation is large enough, it can press on spinal nerves where they exit the spinal column. If nerve tissue is irritated due to the herniation you may experience shooting pains along one side of the body, known as sciatica, as well as tingling, muscle weakness, and numbness in the leg. Pain is often worse while standing, and is relieved when you lay down. This is known as a pinched nerve.

Herniated discs in the neck are less common, but possible. If a herniated disc leads to a pinched nerve in the cervical spine, you may experience pain shooting down one arm, muscle spasms, and stiffness in the neck. Treatment options for herniated discs in the neck are the same as those in the lumbar region.

In some cases, the herniated disc can be so large that it presses on the spinal nerves on both sides of the body. This leads to pain that runs down both lower extremities, muscle weakness, and bladder and bowel incontinence. This condition is known as cauda equina syndrome.

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Risk Factors

There are a variety of risk factors that may make an individual susceptible to herniated discs. As a normal part of the aging process, it is normal for the discs to lose some of their water content. This makes the disc more rigid and susceptible to rupture.

Individuals who have physically demanding jobs, involving bending of the spine or heavy lifting, have an increased likelihood of developing herniated discs. Individuals who carry excess weight are also at an increased risk of developing herniated discs, as it increases pressure on the spinal area. Herniated discs can also have a genetic component.


Herniated discs are diagnosed through several steps. Your doctor will perform a neurological examination as well as order blood tests. The blood tests will look for signs of infection or inflammation. Additional diagnosis is performed through the use of an MRI or CT scan.

Occasionally, your doctor may request a CT myelogram. This is a CT scan performed after the injection of contrast dye into the spinal canal. Your doctor may also perform an electromyogram, or EMG, which is useful in determining which nerves are irritated by the herniated disc.


Treatment for a herniated disc depends on the severity of the condition. Rest is generally recommended as the first line of treatment. Your doctor may recommend physical therapy, pain, anti-inflammatory, and muscle relaxation medication, and local injections of cortisone. If these treatments do not relieve your discomfort, he may recommend surgery.

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