Discs are round, durable cushions found between each vertebra of the spine that act as shock absorbers when you move. A herniated disc (also known as a slipped disc) occurs when the soft center of the disc squeezes out through the dense outer layer of the disc, causing local inflammation that irritates nearby spinal nerves.
It can feel achy or painful when a herniated disc presses on a nerve. This is most likely to occur in the back, but it can happen in the neck, too.
If you’re suffering with ongoing symptoms and pain from a herniated disc in the Bay Area, you can rely on the orthopedic team at Dignity Health in the Bay Area to help you find healing and relief.
Herniated Disc Symptoms
For a herniated disc in the lower back, common symptoms include:
Herniated disc in the neck can cause:
- Burning pain in the neck and shoulder that may shoot down the arm
- Headache, especially in the back of the head
- Numbness, tingling or weakness in one arm
Movements like bending over, sneezing, coughing or sitting down can make herniated disc symptoms worse as they put extra pressure on the affected nerve.
You should see your doctor or come to a Dignity Health hospital for new or worsening symptoms of a herniated disc. Extreme pressure on a nerve, or nerve compression, requires professional medical help because it can lead to permanent nerve damage.
What Causes a Herniated Disc
The risk of herniated discs is greater in people who:
Diagnosing & Treating a Herniated Disc in the Bay Area
Doctors will usually diagnose a herniated disc based on your symptoms, a physical exam, and tests to look at your spine and nerve function. To trigger your symptoms, you may be asked to walk, bend over, lie down and twist.
You may undergo the following tests to confirm a diagnosis:
- Imaging tests, such as an X-ray, MRI or CT scan
- Myelogram, which is an injection of dye (contrast material) into the spine followed by an X-ray to see nerve compression
- Nerve tests, such as electromyography (EMG) or a nerve conduction study (NCS)
After your diagnosis, your doctor will develop a treatment plan. Most people with a herniated disc find relief from conservative treatments, such as:
- Home care measures including rest, heat and ice, and posture changes
- Medications including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), muscle relaxers and prescription pain medicine
- Physical therapy including exercises, traction and back bracing
- Steroid injections into the spine to reduce nerve inflammation and relieve pain
In some cases, surgery is necessary to remove all or part of the herniated disc.
Use our Find a Doctor tool to locate an orthopedic specialist near you and get the answers you need about your herniated disc symptoms.
Dignity Health is a premier resource for patients with a herniated disc across the Bay Area, including in San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Redwood City.