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When You Need Surgery for Disc Herniation

Disc herniation is a fairly common cause of spine-related pain, especially in your lower back and neck. In mild to moderate cases, disc herniation can resolve with noninvasive treatments. But sometimes, the best way to get rid of painful symptoms is with surgery.

As a leading orthopedic surgeon in San Leandro, California, Kenneth I. Light, MD, offers noninvasive and surgical treatments for herniated discs, helping patients find lasting relief from their pain. Here’s how to tell when surgery might be the best option for treating your disc-related back or neck pain.

Disc herniation: The basics

Your spine is composed of a series of bones called vertebrae. Between each pair of vertebrae is a spongy disc. The discs help your spine move and flex, and they also act as shock absorbers, providing protection for the bones and for the nerves that travel through your spine.

Normally, the entire disc is contained within the borders of the vertebrae. Sometimes, though, a disc can slip out of place, extending beyond the edge of the vertebrae. When that happens, the vertebrae can press on the edges of the disc, causing the disc to rupture or herniate. A rupture allows the gel-like material inside the disc to leak out, causing significant irritation to surrounding tissues and nerves. 

Disc herniation can occur anywhere along your spine, but it’s most common in the lower spine (called the lumbar spine) and the upper spine (or cervical spine). These two areas are very flexible, and that flexibility means there’s more movement. Lumbar disc herniations are especially common, occurring about 15 times more often than cervical disc herniations.

Back or neck injuries are one cause of disc herniations, but often, herniations occur as a result of years of wear-and-tear. Men are about twice as likely as women to have a herniated disc, and disc herniations also tend to become more common as you get older and the spine loses some of its flexibility. Degenerative diseases can also increase your risk of a herniated disc.

Surgical vs. nonsurgical treatment

When a herniation is mild, it can typically be treated nonsurgically, with rest, medication, ice packs, and corticosteroid injections as needed. But sometimes, herniated disc symptoms recur, becoming chronic or continuous. In those instances, Dr. Light may recommend surgery either to stabilize the area or to replace the damaged disc.

Spinal fusion

Spinal fusion uses pins, screws, or bone grafted from your hip to stabilize the area of your spine where the disc is damaged. No matter which method or material is used, the effect is the same: It prevents movement in the treated portion of your spine, eliminating the flexion that causes herniated disc symptoms.

Disc replacement arthroplasty

Disc replacement arthroplasty removes the damaged disc and replaces it with an artificial disc. At the same time, Dr. Light also replaces the surfaces of the vertebrae, installing durable plates designed to work with the artificial disc to ensure normal, pain-free movement.

Get relief for your painful symptoms

Back and neck pain can take a major toll on your life and your well-being. Dr. Light is skilled in spine treatments, from noninvasive options to state-of-the-art spine surgery, enabling him to tailor a treatment just for you. 

Dr. Light uses the most advanced techniques for both types of spine surgery, for optimal results and quick recovery. After your comprehensive evaluation, he can recommend the best approach for your specific needs.

If you’ve been suffering with pain in your back or neck, don’t ignore it. Call the office or request an appointment online, and learn how Dr. Light can help you get back to enjoying the activities you love.

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