A herniated disc refers to a problem with one of the rubbery discs between the individual vertebrae that stack up to make your spine.
The intervertebral disc is a soft tissue, cushioning in between vertebral bones of the spine. Trauma, age, and arthritis may cause it to be herniated (squeezed out of its capsule).
Spinal nerves exit the spine in close proximity to the disc and can be pinched by the squeezed disc. This creates a local inflammation and irritation of the nerve. Spinal nerves give origin to the large nerves of the leg, the most talked about being the sciatic. From here derives the term “sciatica.”
Treatment of a herniated disc consists of alleviating pain while allowing the herniation to heal. Studies have shown that a disc herniation may resolve by itself. Physical therapy, chiropractor care along with NSAID’s, muscle relaxants, and antineuropathics may be of benefit.
Some patients may need opioids. If this initial therapy fails, the epidural steroid injection may be needed. Epidural injections will deliver anti-inflammatory medications very close to the nerve and in turn decrease the pain. Very severe cases of a herniated disc may need surgery.