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Herniated Discs and Ruptured Discs

Find Effective Treatment for Herniated and Ruptured Disc at Raleigh Neurosurgical Clinic

What Is a Herniated Disc?

A herniated disc, often referred to as a ruptured disc or slipped disc, is a common source of pain in the neck and lower back that can also spread to the arms and legs.

The spine is made up of two major parts: hard bones (vertebrae) and soft, compressible, sponge-like pieces of cartilage called spinal discs. The discs sit in between each vertebra, where they act as shock absorbers and allow the spine to bend, flex, and twist. The discs themselves also consist of two parts: a thick outer ring made of cartilage, which contains the nerves, and a soft, gel-like core that contains proteins.

As the body ages, these discs eventually break down or degenerate, and this process can lead to a condition called degenerative disc disease. More a general term than an actual disease, degenerative disc disease describes these normal changes of the discs that comes with age.

Once a disc begins to lose fluids through the aging process, its ability to act as a shock absorber reduces, which makes discs less flexible and narrows the space between vertebrae. As degeneration continues, or with any other additional stress on the spine—such as from an injury, being overweight, or any repetitive strenuous activities like lifting—the inner jelly-like nucleus can be forced out through tears in the outer layer, which can cause the disc to break open, or rupture. This rupture is called a herniated disc, and fragments of the disc can then press on nerves and cause symptoms in the neck or lower back, where herniated discs are most common.

What Are the Symptoms of a Herniated Disc?

While neck pain and low back pain are extremely common, herniated discs lead to certain symptoms that helps distinguish them from normal pain. Typical symptoms include:

  • Neck pain in the muscles between the neck and shoulder, which can shoot down the shoulder or cause headaches in the back of the head
  • Weakness in one arm
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Burning pain, numbness, or weakness in the shoulders, arms, or neck

Common symptoms of a herniated disc in the lower back include:

  • Sciatica, a sharp, often shooting pain that extends from the buttocks down to the back of the leg. This is the most common symptom of a herniated disc in the lower back.
  • Weakness in one leg
  • Tingling, pins and needles, or numbness in one leg or buttocks
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Burning pain centered in the neck

How Is a Herniated Disc Diagnosed?

If you’re experiencing significant weakness in both arms or legs along with loss of bladder or bowel control, please seek immediate medical attention, as it may indicate a serious problem.

Otherwise, if you’ve regularly been experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, please visit us at Raleigh Neurosurgical Clinic. We’ll review your complete medical history and perform a physical examination to help determine if your nerve roots are affected and if a herniated disc is present. If pain continues, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, or computed tomography (CAT) scan may be required to confirm your diagnosis.

How Is a Herniated Disc Treated?

In many cases, lower back or neck pain can be alleviated with some simple measures such as rest, over-the-counter pain relievers, and ice and heat therapy. Additional treatment such as physical therapy, injections, and targeted exercises can also be helpful for reducing pain.

In some cases, though, surgery is the most effective way to relieve symptoms. If you’ve experienced leg pain for more than four weeks that interferes with your normal functioning or causes significant weakness, loss of motion, or abnormal sensitivity, surgery should be considered. Surgery can also be necessary if a disc fragment gets lodged in the spinal canal and presses on a nerve, which can cause significant loss of function.

At Raleigh Neurosurgical Clinic, we offer these surgical treatments for herniated discs:

For the Neck

  • Anterior cervical discectomy
  • Spinal fusion
  • Anterior cervical corpectomy
  • Posterior microdiscectomy
  • Posterior cervical laminectomy

For the Lower Back

  • Microdiscectomy (most common)
  • Laminectomy
  • Lumbar spinal fusion
  • Anterior or posterior lumbar interbody fusion
  • Posterolateral lumbar fusion
  • Transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion
  • Foraminotomy
  • Medial facetectomy
  • Sextant fusion

Hear from Our Patients

Hear from patients who’ve been successfully treated for herniated disc by Dr. Allen.


Hear from a patient who has been successfully treated for herniated disc by Raleigh Neurosurgical Clinic.

Make an Appointment

Our neurosurgeons at Raleigh Neurosurgical Clinic are skilled and experienced at treating herniated discs. To meet with one of our herniated disc specialists:
Make an appointment today!