The expression “slipped disc” is not an official medical diagnosis – it is a casual term that is more properly called a herniated disc or ruptured disc. Intervertebral discs are shock absorbers located between adjacent bones of the vertebral column of the spine. These discs absorb pressure throughout the day and night as you sit, lay, walk, stretch and lift. With increased age or overuse, a disc will weaken and bulge. Eventually the outer fibrous ring tears and the inner, jelly-like substance leaks out into the spinal canal.. When this occurs, the disc itself may become painful and tender. Inner disc material may also press on nerve roots or the spinal cord. Compressed nerves react in a variety of ways. They may signal pain, give off a “pins and needles” sensation, become numb, or fail to provide communication to muscles, resulting in muscle weakness.
A conservative, nonsurgical treatment of a slipped disc is always the initial approach. If conservative efforts fail however, surgery may be the only sensible alternative. Since classically this has meant very invasive open back surgery, spine surgery is usually reserved for patients who experience debilitating neck or back pain. In recent years, microchip r technology has made minimally invasive procedures possible. Minimally invasive surgery is becoming the more and more popular alternative to the risks of open back surgery. Regardless of your condition, it is important to fully consider the benefits and potential risks of any spine surgery before consenting to an operation.
The decision to undergo a spine procedure is never easy, even if a slipped disc is causing severe pain. That is why it is extremely important to fully understand all of the options before selecting a procedure. In general, there are two different styles of nerve decompression procedures available to patients who suffer from the lingering effects of a slipped disc:
- Minimally invasive procedures – Outpatient endoscopic procedures are appealing because they can be completed outside a hospital with less pain and recovery time than open spine surgeries. All of the surgery is performed through a small skin incision. A specialized retractor is inserted through this incision to the area needing surgical intervention. The surgeon uses an endoscope equipped with a tiny television camera to visualize the surgical area inside of the patient. The surgeon then uses tiny specialized instruments through the special retractor perform the needed surgery. Endoscopic procedures are much quicker than open spine surgery because the incision used to access the area requiring correction is small, allowing rapid opening and closing of the surgical site. The minute size of the incision required means a less painful and more rapid recovery. Less anesthesia is needed for a minimally invasive procedure. Minimally invasive procedures can often last as little as an hour. Patients recover at home and recovery and rehabilitation time is minimal.
- Open spine surgeries – Open spine surgeries have been the traditional choice for patients with slipped disc pain for years. During the operation, the patient is placed under general anesthesia and the spine is accessed through a large incision in the back, neck, abdomen, or throat. The offending slipped disc is removed and replaced with a bone graft and is stabilized with hardware. Over time, the vertebrae are expected to fuse together, although occasionally bone grafting fails. If this occurs a second surgery is usually required. Healing and rehabilitation from an open neck or back procedure can take several months to a year.
Laser Spine Institute
Conservative treatment is usually effective for alleviating neck or back pain from a slipped disc. However, if your pain persists, please explore other options. Contact Laser Spine Institute today to learn how one of our minimally invasive endoscopic procedures may be the better option to recover your life.