Summary

Your backbone, or spine, is made up of 26 bones called vertebrae. In between them are soft disks filled with a jelly-like substance. These disks cushion the vertebrae and keep them in place. As you age, the disks break down or degenerate. As they do, they lose their cushioning ability. This can lead to pain if the back is stressed.

A herniated disk is a disk that ruptures. This allows the jelly-like center of the disk to leak, irritating the nearby nerves. This can cause sciatica or back pain.

Your doctor will diagnose a herniated disk with a physical exam and, sometimes, imaging tests. With treatment, most people recover. Treatments include rest, pain and anti-inflammatory medicines, physical therapy, and sometimes surgery.

Also called: Bulging disk, Compressed disk, Herniated intervertebral disk, Herniated nucleus pulposus, Prolapsed disk, Ruptured disk, Slipped disk

Diagnosis and Tests

  • Computed Tomography (CT) – Spine(American College of Radiology, Radiological Society of North America)Also in Spanish
  • Discography (Discogram) (American College of Radiology, Radiological Society of North America)Also in Spanish
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – Spine(American College of Radiology, Radiological Society of North America)Also in Spanish
  • Radiographic Assessment for Back Pain (North American Spine Society)

Treatments and Therapies

  • Artificial Disc Replacement (North American Spine Society)
  • Epidural Injections for Spinal Pain(American College of Radiology, Radiological Society of North America)Also in Spanish
  • Laparoscopic Spine Surgery (Society of American Gastrointestinal Endoscopic Surgeons)
  • Lumbar (Open) Microscopic Discectomy (North American Spine Society)
  • Spinal Fusion (North American Spine Society)

Related Issues

  • Cervical Radiculopathy (Pinched Nerve) (American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons)PDFAlso in Spanish

Specifics

  • Herniated Cervical Disc (North American Spine Society)
  • Herniated Disk in the Lower Back (American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons)PDF
  • Herniated Lumbar Disc (North American Spine Society)Also in Spanish