What is a
herniated disk is a disk that has bulged out from its proper
place in your back. Disks are small, circular cushions
between the bones of the spine (vertebrae). Normally, disks
act as shock absorbers to cushion your vertebrae from each
other as you move. A herniated disk may press on nearby
nerves and cause severe pain.
does it occur?
disk is damaged, the soft rubbery center of the disk
squeezes out through a weak point in the hard outer layer. A
disk may be damaged by:
herniated disk may also happen spontaneously without any
are the symptoms?
herniated disk is in your back, your symptoms may develop
gradually or begin suddenly. Symptoms include:
of a herniated disk in your neck may also develop gradually
or suddenly. You may wake up and feel a sudden aching. Or
you may have a twisted neck that you cannot straighten
without extreme pain. You may also have numbness, tingling,
or weakness in one or both arms.
How is it
health care provider will review your symptoms and ask about
the history of your pain. Then he or she will examine your
spine and test the movement and reflexes in your arms and
legs. Your provider may want you to have one or more of the
x-rays of your spine
magnetic resonance imaging, also called MRI (an image of
your spine and herniated disk generated by sound waves)
scan (computerized x-ray images of your spine)
electromyography (tests of electrical activity in your
myelography (injection of dye into the fluid around the
spinal cord that can be seen on x-rays)
diskography (injection of dye into a disk and x-rays
is it treated?
cases, treatment without surgery will relieve your pain.
herniated disk in your back, your health care provider may
several days or more of lying flat on your back on a
firm mattress or on an ordinary bed with a stiff board
under the mattress, or lying on your belly with a pillow
under your chest, whichever is more comfortable
prescription pain relievers
hot or cold packs
steroid injections into the space near the herniated
disk to control pain and inflammation.
for a herniated disk in your neck may include:
or cold packs
prescription pain relievers
a neck collar or neck brace to relieve muscle spasms
neck and shoulder massage
traction, which is the process of putting bones or
muscles under tension with a system of weights and
pulleys to keep them from moving or to relieve pressure
pain lessens, your health care provider will want you to
begin a physical therapy program in which you will do
exercises to strengthen your back muscles and joints.
Stabilization exercises are also used to treat herniated
disks. This therapy involves learning how to control the
movement of your spine in all recreation and work
continue to have symptoms, you may need to have surgery.
However, most people who have herniated disks do not need
long will the effects of a herniated disk last?
initial intense pain should go away within a few weeks, but
some pain may remain for a few months. You may be prone to
backaches throughout your life and therefore must remember
to protect your spine when lifting or being physically
weakness and numbness in your legs continue or if you lose
control of your bowel or bladder function, contact your
health care provider immediately.
can I take care of myself?
correct posture when you are walking, sitting, standing,
lying down, or working.
lifting heavy objects, don't bend over from your waist.
Kneel or squat down by the object, while keeping your
back as straight as possible. Use your thigh muscles to
do the lifting. Avoid twisting.
you stand, always stand up straight with your shoulders
back, abdomen in, and the small of the back flat. When
standing for long periods, move around frequently and
shift your weight from one foot to another while
standing as straight as possible.
can be done to help prevent a herniated disk?
disks can often be prevented by keeping your weight down,
eating a proper diet, and exercising to keep your muscles
firm. Strong, flexible muscles can stabilize your spine and
protect it from injury. This includes keeping your stomach
muscles strong. Walking and swimming are two good exercises
for strengthening and protecting your spine.