Understanding the ABC of Disc Pain

Posted on December 27, 2018


You don't understand the pain that a damaged disc can cause until you've experienced it. You may only feel pain when you overexert your back, or you move a certain way. The pain may become constant. It may interfere with your day-to-day activities. The pain may spread to your arms or legs. Find out the cause of your disc pain and get help.

Functions of Discs

Your discs, donut-shaped pads, separate your vertebrae in your spinal column. Your discs are made of fibrocartilage. They have a hard exterior that provides support and a soft interior that provides cushioning. They act as shock absorbers, protect your spinal nerves, and give your spine flexibility.

Causes of Disc Pain

As you age, your discs lose water and nutrients. The aging process makes your disc less flexible and more prone to injury.

A herniated disc—also called a slipped disc or a ruptured disc—occurs when the outside layer of your disc deteriorates, causing the soft or jelly-like inside of your disc to tear in the disc's outer layer.

If the herniated disc is in the lumbar (lower) region of your spine, your pain will radiate into your buttocks, legs, and feet. If the herniated disc is in the cervical (upper) region of your spine, the pain will radiate into your shoulders, arms, and hands. You may feel pain in your arm or leg when you sneeze or cough, or when you move your back a certain way. You may experience numbness and tingling in your arms or legs. Your muscles may even weaken.

The wear and tear on your back may cause your disc to bulge. A bulging disc is less likely to cause pain than a herniated disc because a herniated disc is more likely to irritate your spinal nerves.

A collapsed disc occurs when the outer layer of the disc degenerates to the point that the disc loses its height. This can put pressure on your spinal nerves, causing tingling, numbness, and chronic pain, and it can lead to a herniated or bulging disc.

Disc Pain


The treatment of your disc pain will depend on the severity of your injury. In mild cases, you may only need to rest and take anti-inflammatory medication. If your symptoms continue or get worse, your doctor can offer conservative treatment, such as steroid injections.

Surgery is a last resort, but orthopedic spine surgery in Long Island, NY, may be what is necessary to take care of your disc problem and relieve your pain. Your orthopedic spine surgeon will discuss your options. The surgeon may remove part of the damaged disc or perform a spinal fusion by joining two vertebrae. If necessary, an artificial disc can be inserted. The goal is to reduce your back pain and increase your mobility.

Orthopedic spine surgeons at Peconic Bay Medical Center can repair, remove, or replace your disc to reduce your pain so you can return to an active lifestyle.