Helpful Information

Herniated Disc: What It Is, Causes & Our Treatment Methods

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the incidence of a herniated disc is about 5 to 20 per 1,000 adults annually, which is a large number considering there are nearly 330 million people living in the United States alone. And, because symptoms vary between patient to patient, some of which cause no pain at all, they frequently go undetected until pain and severity increases, causing limitations in day-to-day activities. At Petersen Neurospine, we treat this condition quite often. Below we share what a herniated disc is, what causes it and how we help you treat it.

About Herniated Discs

The disc is a cushion between the vertebrae and is much like a jelly doughnut. If it tears, it creates lower back pain. If it is squeezed, it can press on the nerve and create pain and weakness. A herniated disc happens when a fragment of a disc is pushed into the spinal canal, due to a tear or rupture. Typically, a herniated disc means that your spinal disc is in an early stage of degeneration. When the fragment is squeezed into the spinal canal, similar to the doughnut analogy above, it can produce pain, which may be severe.


The American Association of Neurological Surgeons says there are several things that cause herniated discs. One single strain or injury may cause it, but this typically happens if degeneration is already occurring. Degeneration is common as we age and as it progresses, even minor strains and twisting movements can cause a disc to rupture. 


Like we stated in the introduction, symptoms vary from patient to patient. Some experience debilitating pain while others experience no pain at all. If the disc is pressing on a nerve, the patient will likely experience pain, numbness or weakness. If it’s not pressing on a nerve, the patient will likely experience dull back pain or none at all. Other symptoms include chronic neck pain and sciatica. 

Treatment Methods

Typically we treat herniated discs with steroids or by simply removing the fragments in the spinal canal with an outpatient surgery called a microdiscectomy. During surgery, generally only the disc material compressing the nerve is removed and most of the disc is left in place. The surgery requires an overnight stay. Pain and other symptoms from herniated discs can be treated with medication as well as physical therapy and injections.

Learn more about herniated discs and how we treat them here.


Dr. Bendt P. Petersen is an orthopaedic and neurospine surgical specialist with over twenty years in operative clinical practice. He is a fellowship-trained surgeon whose practice is the only one in the Mobile-area devoted exclusively to the treatment of your spine.

The Center for Spine Health employs the most advanced operative and nonoperative therapies in concert with the most highly-trained physical therapists and other advanced ancillary practitioners to help you live the life you want to live.

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