A herniated disc is characterized by the rupture of the soft nucleus pulposis, breaking through the outer wall of the disc and squeezing or protruding outward and reducing the space between the vertebrae. A disc herniation may also be known as slipped disc or ruptured disc. A herniated disc is further damaged than a bulging disc and can occur in the neck, middle, or lower back.
Many people experience herniated discs, although most do not experience symptoms or experience very mild symptoms that dissipate within a couple of weeks. For the few that experience chronic symptoms over a long period of time, they may require surgery, physical therapy, or pain medications.
Those that experience symptoms often have "pinched nerve" pain (sciatica) due to the disc herniation putting pressure on the sciatic nerve. Local and radiating back pain can also be present. Other symptoms include weakness, numbness, problems walking or balancing, and sometimes even loss or disturbance of bowel and bladder function.
The standard approaches to treating disc herniation are medication, physical therapy, intervention pain blocks, and sometimes may require a surgical procedure called a microdiscectomy. The problem with surgery is that 5 to 10 percent of disc herniation can recur, and only 20% of back surgeries are successful (without relapse) after two years. The other biggest issue with these forms of treatment is that even if you are able to repair the damage to one disc, your spine may still continue through the degeneration process and may cause other spine problems such as spinal stenosis or disc space collapse. Disc herniation are often the culprit for sciatica, while they are the result of the disc degeneration process.