Understanding how much the spine controls our overall health and well-being is difficult until we start experiencing pain. Disc herniation, a prevalent spine condition, can cause numbness, tingling, and radiating pain in the legs, arm, neck, or back, limiting mobility. If you have these symptoms, you should consider seeing a doctor for treatment. Based on the severity of the pain and other symptoms, disc herniation surgery is among the treatments your doctor may recommend.
At LAMIS Institute, we boast a team of spine specialists who offer comprehensive treatment for disc herniation, helping patients find much-needed relief. We explore our patients' symptoms to determine the location of the herniated disk and establish an appropriate treatment option. We can perform surgery for herniated disks that cause severe pain and weakness if non-surgical treatment options have been unsuccessful. If you wish to undergo disc herniation treatment, including surgery, in Los Angeles, contact us to schedule an appointment.
Disc Herniation Overview
The bones forming the spinal cord (vertebrae) are cushioned by disks. These disks are small, round, and pillow-like, with a hard external layer (annulus) surrounding the nucleus. They are located between every vertebra in the spinal column and serve as shock absorbers for the vertebrae.
Disc herniation occurs when part or all of a disc nucleus is forced out of the annulus and finds its way into the spinal canal via a rupture, tear, or crack in the annulus. The space within the spinal canal is limited; therefore, it is insufficient to accommodate the herniated disc nucleus and spinal nerves, often resulting in pain that could be severe. Disc herniation is usually an early sign of disc degeneration.
Disc herniation can happen anywhere in the spinal cord, but it is more prevalent in the lumbar spine (lower back) and not so prevalent in the cervical spine. The area where a person experiences pain varies based on what section of the spinal cord is affected.
Most people do not experience disc herniation symptoms because their conditions are primarily mild, and disc herniation does not affect their nerves. Some people only notice they suffer from disc herniation when they undergo an MRI or CT scan. If symptoms appear, they vary in severity and placement because, as mentioned, disc herniation can occur in any area along the spinal cord. Common signs of disc herniation include:
- Leg and arm pain.
- Shooting pain and weakness.
- Tingling or numbness.
Since only particular nerves are impacted by disc herniation, only one part of the body might experience these signs. If the disc is herniated in the lumbar region, you may realize that only the right or left leg will feel shooting pains, tingling, or numbness.
Apart from the back, disc herniation can also cause pain in other parts of the body. Even if you do not have back pain, you may develop symptoms associated with disc herniation elsewhere in the body.
Disk herniation causes vary from one patient to another. Since it is primarily caused by vertebral discs wearing off with time, almost everybody can experience herniation. But some people are at a higher risk of disc herniation than others, as follows:
- Persons between the ages of 35 and 59 face a higher risk of disc herniation.
- Persons who remain seated in one position for a long time can develop disc herniation.
- Lifestyle habits that increase the chances of disc herniation include being overweight and smoking.
- Men are two times more likely to experience disc herniation than women.
- Disc herniation is common in people who regularly lift heavy items, work, or engage in hobbies with consistent twisting or bending motions.
A person with a job that involves sitting behind a desk and who will go on to play tennis after work will likely suffer from disc herniation, just as someone who works in a warehouse lifting heavy objects will. Disc herniation can result from improper lifting with no support, excessive weight exerting pressure on the spinal cord, multiple repetitive motions, and aging. It can develop from straining over time or from a pre-existing injury.
Most patients cannot determine when exactly they developed disc herniation or what caused it. Instead, they will experience symptoms over time and only seek assistance once the tingling or pain becomes too severe to handle.
Disc Herniation Surgery
A neurological or orthopedic surgeon conducts disc herniation surgery to remove the herniated disc from the spinal nerve on which it is pressing. The surgery aims to ease pain and restore normal spine motion.
Most disc herniation conditions do not need surgery, as patients respond well to non-surgical treatment options, and symptoms heal within a few days or weeks. Generally, surgery is the last option, and it is an option only after several months of conservative treatment.
Doctors only recommend surgery when the condition has worsened, and the patient has not obtained relief with conventional treatment options like physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, core strengthening exercises, or massage.
A physician may suggest surgery based on the patient's level of disability and pain. Rarely, a disc herniation may impact the nerves controlling the bowel and bladder. If that is the case, surgery is necessary to ease nerve pressure and restore bowel and bladder function.
Most surgical procedures for disc herniation can be done using minimally invasive methods. That is, minimal cutting and entering the body. These methods lead to smaller incisions, less postoperative pain, shorter stays at the hospital, and a quicker recovery.
Types of Herniated Disc Surgical Procedures
There are various types of disc herniation surgeries to relieve nerve pressure and ease pain, numbness, and other symptoms. These surgical procedures include:
Artificial Disk Surgery
Artificial disc surgery is performed under general anesthesia. The surgery is often used when disc herniation has occurred in the lumbar spine and only a single disk is affected. It is ineffective when multiple disks show degeneration or for people with osteoporosis or arthritis.
The neurosurgeon accesses the herniated disk through a cut in your abdomen, removes the affected disc, and replaces it with an artificial disk made from metal or plastic material. You may have to remain at the hospital for some days after the procedure.
A discectomy is the most common surgical procedure for disc herniation in the lower back. The procedure entails removing the section of the herniated disc that is pressing on the spinal nerves and nerve root. The neurosurgeon accesses the herniated disk via a cut in your neck or back.
If possible, the neurosurgeon uses special instruments and a tinier incision to obtain the same outcome. This most recent, minimally invasive technique is known as microdiscectomy. In certain instances, these surgical processes can be performed outpatient.
Endoscopic Spine Surgery
During the endoscopic spine surgical procedure, the neurosurgeon utilizes an endoscope to extract the herniated part of the disk. This is a minimally invasive procedure requiring a small cut. Only a tiny scar will remain after a faster recovery.
Your surgeon will administer general anesthesia before conducting the spinal fusion procedure. During surgery, the neurosurgeon permanently fuses more than one vertebra. They can do this by lifting a bone graft from somewhere in your body or from a donor. The spinal fusion procedure may also involve utilizing plastic or metal rods or screws to provide extra support. This permanently immobilizes that section of the spine. Spinal fusion requires staying in the hospital for a few days.
The lamina refers to a vertebral part covering and protecting the spinal canal. Doctors sometimes need to extract all or part of the lamina to treat disc herniation. The laminotomy procedure involves removing a section of the lamina. On the other hand, laminectomy involves removing the whole lamina.
Both processes entail making a tiny incision in the middle of the neck or on the back at the site of the affected disk. After removing all or part of the lamina, the neurosurgeon will perform a diskectomy to extract the herniated disk. Laminectomies and laminotomies can be cervical or lumbar. Cervical procedures help relieve pain in the upper limbs and neck that disc herniation causes around the neck region. Lumbar procedures help relieve sciatic or leg pain that a disc herniation causes in the lumbar spine region.
Preparing for Disc Herniation Surgery
Before undergoing disc herniation surgery, you should try managing your pain using conservative treatment options. This means seeing a chiropractor or physiotherapist, doing particular exercises to push the disk away from the spinal nerve roots, and being more active.
If traditional treatment options do not result in a positive outcome, you may need surgery, which may require preparation. Things your physician may require you to do in preparation for disc herniation surgery include the following:
- See the doctor for lab and physical work.
- Confirm whether there are drugs you must stop using before the procedure.
- Have the doctor check your heart to ensure it can tolerate anesthesia and your procedure.
- Arrange for a trusted friend or family member to assist you after the procedure.
- Check whether your insurer will pay for the surgery.
- Quit smoking.
- Eat healthily and do a lot of exercises before surgery to maximize recovery.
- Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before surgery.
Ensure you adhere to your surgeon's recommendations when preparing for your procedure. Ask all your questions and ensure you understand what you should do to obtain the best possible outcome from your surgery.
What You Should Expect During Disc Herniation Surgery
Your physician will likely need you to wear a hospital patient gown before checking your vitals, like blood pressure and pulse rate, and starting an IV line. Your neurosurgeon will then discuss the procedure with you.
Afterward, an anesthesiologist will administer anesthesia that will numb you so you will not feel pain during surgery. You will then be transferred to the operating room to undergo the procedure.
Once the anesthesia wears off and you wake up, you will be transferred to the recovery room, where you will remain under observation. Your doctor will administer medication to relieve postoperative pain and provide comfort. Most patients spend a day in the hospital, but lately, surgeons usually perform outpatient surgical procedures for disc herniation. In this case, you can be discharged on the same day of your surgery to start your recovery at home.
Recovery from Surgery
Recovering from disc herniation surgery starts right after the surgical process. Your doctor may encourage you to walk around a little after the procedure, and you could anticipate moving cautiously for approximately six days after your surgery. After the surgical procedure, your doctor may instruct you to avoid bending, twisting, or lifting heavy objects. They may also require you to put on a chiropractic brace.
Most patients benefit from gentle exercises for spinal strength, flexibility, and range of motion after the surgery. Your doctor may recommend that you work with a physiotherapist.
Most patients recover from disc herniation surgery in approximately four to seven weeks. Your particular recovery course may be based on the seriousness of your medical condition.
Complications of Disc Herniation Surgery
Disc herniation surgeries rarely lead to complications. However, if they arise, they could include bleeding, infections, a nerve injury, and tears in the spinal cord’s protective lining. In a few people, the herniated disk could rupture again, leading to the symptoms recurring.
Disc herniation surgery is effective for most people experiencing challenging pain, but neurosurgeons cannot guarantee the symptoms will fade after surgery. A few people might continue experiencing herniated disk pain after recovering. In certain instances, the pain might worsen with time.
Find a Reliable Los Angeles Spine Surgeon Near Me
At LAMIS Institute, we have experienced spine specialists who offer various treatment options for spine-related conditions, including herniated discs. We will thoroughly examine your medical condition and determine the best conservative treatment technique based on the severity of your symptoms. If your symptoms are so severe that traditional treatment cannot help, we offer various surgical options to relieve pain.
We utilize the most advanced surgical techniques and equipment that increase the chances of success while minimizing risks, post-operative pain, and recovery time. If you seek treatment for a herniated disc or any other spine-related condition in Los Angeles, call us at 310-734-6088 to schedule an appointment.