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Diagnosing and Treating Herniated Discs

Last updated 5 years ago

The human spine is comprised of bones that are stacked and separated by shock absorbers called discs. Each disc contains a soft, gel-like center surrounded by a firm outer layer. When this outer layer is torn or cracks, the soft gel may protrude to exert pressure upon the spinal cord—a condition neurosurgeons refer to as a herniated disc. Here is how spine specialists diagnose and treat this painful condition:


There are many causes of herniated discs (i.e. trauma, heavy labor, etc.), but some patients may not be aware of the injury until they start to experience back pain. Patients usually report a numb or tingling sensation. A licensed neurosurgeon’s first step is to obtain a patient’s complete medical history and to conduct a physical examination. The diagnosis of a herniated disc must then be confirmed by imaging technology, such as an MRI, or if necessary, by a myelogram followed by a CT scan of the spine. If additional information about nerve functioning is necessary, an EMG or nerve conduction study might be needed.


The first line of treatment for a herniated disc is a nonsurgical, conservative approach that allows approximately 50% of patients to return to their normal daily activities within four to six weeks. This noninvasive approach may require patients to avoid strenuous activity, including bending, twisting, or lifting. Your neurosurgeon may also recommend physical therapy techniques or a variety of anti-inflammatory medications. For more serious conditions, surgical intervention may be necessary to successfully treat severe pain. Fortunately, the prognosis for a herniated disc in the lumbar or cervical spine is generally very good and most patients respond well to conservative care. Even for patients who require surgery, the end result is no more back pain.

If you are experiencing back pain that you think could be attributed to a herniated disc, call Houston’s premiere neurosurgeon, Dr. Gary Kraus of Kraus Back and Neck Institute at (888) 816-8954 to schedule a consultation today. Dr. Gary Kraus, is a leading Houston neurosurgeon specializing in spine health, surgery, and non-surgical spine treatments. 


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