Your vertebral discs are the shock absorbers of the spine. Shaped like spongy jelly doughnuts or hockey pucks, they rest between each vertebral bone so you can jump, run, and walk without stressing your vertebrae or forcing them to grate against one another.
But over time or after an injury, a disc begins to wear out and may rupture or herniate. The flattened disc no longer does its job as a shock absorber, so your vertebrae aren’t protected well.
The ruptured disc material can also press against an adjacent nerve, which may cause excruciating pain, including the radiating pain of sciatica. Discs most commonly rupture in the cervical spine (neck) or lumbar spine (lower back).
Jocelyn R. Idema, DO, of Steel City Spine and Orthopedic Center is a fellowship-trained spine and orthopedic surgeon. She and our team are committed to giving you relief from the pain and dysfunction of a herniated disc.
Whenever possible, Dr. Idema recommends conservative treatment first. She may prescribe muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatories, or steroids to alleviate your pain. She also suggests working with a physical therapist to build strength in the muscles that support your spine and discs.
If conservative measures fail to give you adequate relief so you can live a full and pain-free life, she may recommend surgery. Dr. Idema is an expert in minimally invasive spinal surgeries that repair herniated discs and alleviate pain.
She bases her recommendations for the type of surgery on your unique pain and disc profile.
If you have pain in your leg from a pinched nerve in your lumbar spine, Dr. Idema may recommend microdiscectomy. In this minimally invasive procedure, she removes a small portion of bone or the herniated disc material to alleviate pressure on the compressed nerve.
You should feel pain relief right after the surgery and can return home. Your nerve heals over the next weeks to months for more complete relief.
In cases where the disc material has narrowed the opening in your spinal canal — a condition known as spinal stenosis — Dr. Idema may perform a laminectomy. She removes one or more of the foramina from your vertebra, essentially removing its “roof” to give the nerve more room.
When more than one nerve or vertebra in your lumbar spine are affected, Dr. Idema may recommend lumbar fusion surgery. In this procedure, she fuses two vertebrae together, essentially stopping the joint they form from moving so it doesn’t irritate the nearby nerve.
The lumbar fusion alleviates pain because the joint no longer presses on the nerve. Even though you can’t move that particular joint in your spine any longer, the fusion doesn’t affect your overall mobility.
When your disc is so degraded that it can no longer sufficiently protect your vertebrae, Dr. Idema may advise removing the degenerated disc and replacing it with an artificial disc. She uses state-of-the-art discs such as:
The disc replacement preserves motion in your spinal joint while alleviating pain.
If you have neck pain caused by herniated discs, Dr. Idema performs ACDF surgery using the Solitaire-C™ stand-alone cervical interbody fusion from Biomet. She removes the degenerated disc, then fuses the vertebrae to the Biomet spacer. The spacer promotes healing, too.
With most surgeries for ruptured discs, you should be able to return home the same day. Your pain should be relieved almost immediately, but pain relief and mobility improve with healing and physical therapy.
If you have a herniated disc or suffer from low back pain or neck pain, find out if surgery is the right choice for you. Schedule a consultation today by contacting us by phone or online request form. We have offices in Pittsburgh, McKees Rocks, and Washington, Pennsylvania.