The “disc” lies between each vertebral body in the front of the spine. These discs which are composed of a gelatinous shock absorbing material can often dry and shrink as we age. At times, a portion of the disc can push through its barrier (the annulus) and press up against the spinal nerves. This can often cause sudden arm pain if the disc is in the neck or pain radiating down the leg if it the disc is in the lower back.
Most herniated discs can be treated with medications both a steroid for a short period of time and anti-inflammatories. As well, physical therapeutic exercises can often shorten the duration and lessen the pain. If the pain is unremitting for more than approximately 6 weeks or if the herniated disc is associated with muscle weakness then a microdiscectomy may be indicated. This is performed usually as an outpatient procedure with a one inch incision and under a microscope I remove the loose disc that is pressing on the nerve.