Disc tears typically occur when a vertebral disc compromised by disc degeneration or the natural aging process suffers significant trauma. When this happens, the outer layer of the disc tears and the inner material moves outward into the tear, which creates a slight disc herniation. In some cases, the material will push completely through the outer layer of the disc, which results in a complete disc herniation. Since disc tears are often caused by injuries and stress, they are most common in the lower back or neck, where the spine has more motion.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE A DISC TEAR?
Disc tears are usually caused by a traumatic injury to the affected area. Traumatic injuries may occur during high-impact sports, car accidents or any other incident that applies excessive force to the spine. A disc tear is more likely to occur after a traumatic injury if the disc is already weak because of degenerative disc disease or natural aging.
Symptoms of a torn disc typically include pain in the affected area. Patients with a torn disc may also experience tingling, numbness, loss of reflexes and pain in the arms or legs, depending on the exact location of the injury.
If you have a torn disc in your lower back (lumbar region), you will feel symptoms in the legs, whereas a disc tear in the neck (cervical region) will cause symptoms in the arms, shoulders and hands. As a disc tear progresses without treatments, symptoms will get worse, and eventually result in a completely herniated, or bulging, disc.
WHAT IS THE RIGHT TREATMENT FOR ME?
When dealing with the initial disc tear, our doctors typically begin with a conservative treatment approach including physical therapy designed to strengthen and stabilize the area around the disc, pain medication, anti-inflammatory injections or nerve block injections to numb the nerve roots affected by the disc tear.
When all conservative treatment methods have been exhausted, our doctors turn to the least invasive surgery option possible. A minimally invasive procedure called an endoscopic discectomy may be recommended. This procedure is designed to safely remove the herniated disc material in a quick, outpatient setting. If a disc tear has turned into a severe disc herniation, an artificial disc replacement may be required.