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Torn disc

What it means to have a torn disc

A torn disc happens when one of the soft discs that cushions the vertebrae of the spine becomes damaged through years of wear. Its tough outer shell can develop cracks that allow its inner gel core to leak out, which can lead to pain and other symptoms.

How your physician diagnoses a torn disc

To be diagnosed with a torn disc, you’ll need to visit your doctor, who will rely on your medical history, a physical exam and one or more imaging tests, such as an X-ray, CT scan or MRI, to make a diagnosis.

How a torn disc is caused

Torn discs occur due to aging, trauma and regular wear. During impacts, such as automobile accidents, spinal discs can experience tremendous strain as they are compressed. The resulting damage can lead to herniation. In the case of age-related degeneration, the spinal discs become more brittle and prone to rupturing as the body grows older. The outer shell can become cracked through routine activities, allowing the interior gel to push its way out.

The symptoms of a torn disc

In many cases, people don’t even know they have a herniated disc because the injured discs themselves don’t usually cause pain. It’s when the gel material makes contact with a neighboring nerve that more typical torn disc symptoms occur, including:

  • Pain in the affected area
  • Radiating pain that can travels to the arms, legs and other areas of the body depending on the location of the damaged disc
  • Numbness, tingling or burning sensations in the affected extremities

Torn disc treatment options

Many people who have symptomatic torn discs can turn use a combination of rest, medications and physical therapy to manage their symptoms. Regular exercise and the application of heat or cold to the affected areas also work for many. Some people may need more intervention if these methods don’t work, such as epidural steroid injections. In a large number of cases surgery is not necessary to treat a torn disc.

Surgery for a torn disc

Doctors typically recommend surgery only in cases where the patient’s symptoms are disruptive to everyday life and they do not show substantial improvement after exploring other methods. Spinal surgery to remove part or all of a damaged disc can be performed through traditional open spine procedures, but Laser Spine Institute offers a minimally invasive alternative that allows patients to benefit from a shorter recovery time^ and lower risk of complication.

Contact Laser Spine Institute today to learn about the minimally invasive spine surgery that we perform at our Scottsdale, Ariz. surgery center. We offer a no-cost MRI review that can help you find out if you’re a candidate for one of our procedures.