Dr. Maqsood Ahmed A R

Senior Consultant - Neurosurgery

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Dr. Maqsood Ahmed A R

Senior Consultant - Neurosurgery

Manipal Hospitals, Mysuru

Disc Herniation And Disc Degeneration: What You Need To Know

Posted On: May 07, 2024

blogs read 5 Min Read

Disc Herniation and Degeneration: Symptoms, Causes ,Treatments

The spine is a remarkable structure of our body. It comprises vertebrae. Small, cushion-like discs separate them from each other. The support, flexibility, and shock absorption - our spine provides everything. However, age, injury, and unhealthy lifestyle choices often cause spinal disc problems. This results in discomfort and limited mobility. 


Discovering the Most Common Spinal Disc Problems

Two common spinal disc problems are: 

  • Disc Herniation 

  • Degenerative Disc Disease 

Spinal discs are rubber-like. They have a gel-like fluid (nucleus). The flexibility of the spine depends on these discs. The annulus protects the nucleus, which is a tough and rubbery exterior. If the annulus suffers a tear, the nucleus may bulge out. It often puts a pressure on the nerve. This condition is called disc herniation or slipped disc. 

Degenerative disc disease is usually a result of ageing. It occurs when the spine cushioning starts to wear away. Most of the time, this disease affects after the age of 40.

In the following sections, you will discover more about both these conditions.

Disc Herniation (Herniated Disc)

Disc herniation usually affects your lower back. It can cause pain. It can even weaken or numb your arms or legs. The warning signs may vary depending on where the disc is sitting. If it presses on your nerve, it may show severe herniation symptoms. Typically, one side of your body gets affected by a herniated disc. 


  • Localised pain: Pain in the lower back, thigh, calf, and buttocks if the condition affects your lower back. It may even extend to your feet. There might be a pain in your shoulders and arms if your neck is affected. This can trigger if you sneeze, cough, or move. Patients have described this pain as burning. 

  • Radiating pain: Pain may extend into the arms or legs.

  • Numbness and tingling: If the disc herniation affects your nerve, you may feel numb in the affected area.

  • Muscle weakness: The muscles related to your nerves may feel weak. This may make it difficult for you to hold or lift things. This symptom is especially visible in the extremities.

Sometimes, you may not even show any symptoms. This is why it is necessary to keep consulting an experienced specialist. It will keep you updated about your health concerns. 


  • Wear and tear: The disc's outer layer (annulus fibrosus) may weaken over time. Age compromises the flexibility of the discs. This often results in rupture, even with a small strain. 

  • Trauma: The inner disc material (nucleus pulposus) may herniate through the weakened outer layer because of sudden pressure or strain.


  • Physical examination: Your doctor examines you thoroughly. They test your reflexes, muscle strength, and sensation.

  • Imaging tests: MRI or CT scans to detect and visualise the herniated disc.

Disc Herniation Treatment Options

  • Conservative measures: Doctors often suggest physical therapy to relieve you from the pain. There might be pain medications, as well. In some cases, proper rest helps a lot. 

  • Epidural injections: Steroids to reduce inflammation.

  • Surgery: Procedures like discectomy may be performed to remove the herniated portion. This applies only in severe cases or when the conservative methods fail. 

Consult a neurosurgeon in Mysore if you need Disc Herniation Treatment.

Disc Degeneration

Spinal discs are the shock absorbers. They allow us to move, bend, and twist. However, normally, with age, these discs degenerate. The worn-away cushions cause our bones to rub together, leading to pain. At least 5% of adults experience back pain due to disc degeneration.

 Disc Degeneration Symptoms

  • Pain: Gradual onset of chronic pain in the affected area. It usually affects your back and neck. The pain comes and goes. It may last for a week or even for a month. The pain often spreads to the lower back and buttocks. Your arms or legs may feel numb. Bending, sitting, or lifting objects worsens this condition. 

  • Stiffness: As spinal discs are responsible for our flexible movements, degeneration reduces that range of motion.

  • Decreased height: Discs lose water content with degeneration. The stiffness causes the discs to reduce height.


  • Ageing: Natural wear and tear over time.

  • Genetics: There are certain genetic conditions that increase your risks of early disc degeneration.

  • Lifestyle factors: Your lifestyle is a critical reason for degenerative disc disease. Smoking, obesity, and poor posture are the significant ones.

  • Injury: Disc degeneration can be the result of acute injuries. For example, if you have fallen down.

  • Biology: Your biological anatomy often puts you more at risk. This is why women experience disc degeneration earlier than me. 

Consulting a neurosurgery specialist will assist you in finding out the cause and follow proper treatment procedures. 


  • Clinical evaluation: Your doctor will first assess all the symptoms. They will consider your entire medical history. Finally, a thorough physical examination will ensure your condition.

  • Imaging tests: X-rays, MRI, or CT scans. These will show your disc structure and integrity.

 Disc Degeneration Treatment Options

  • Physical therapy: There are specific exercises to improve strength and flexibility. Follow them as shown by your doctor to alleviate pain.

  • Pain management: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or such medications. They are a great aid in dealing with the pain. 

  • Lifestyle modifications: Start following a healthy diet. Exercise regularly. Avoid sitting in one place for a prolonged period.

  • Surgery: Spinal fusion or artificial disc replacement may be considered for severe degeneration.

General Considerations

The following factors are applicable to both disc herniation and degeneration.

  • Conservative Measures:  They are often quite beneficial for both diseases. Except for severe cases, they usually eliminate the need for a surgical procedure. The initial approaches are physical therapy and pain management. 

  • Individualised Treatment Plans: Your doctor will consider your specific condition to prescribe you the appropriate treatment plan. This typically includes your symptoms and lifestyle factors. 

  • Consultation with Specialists: Neurosurgeons, orthopaedic surgeons, and pain management specialists are the ones. They often collaborate with physical therapists to treat spinal disc problems. 

It is important to detect the disc problems early. This ensures that the disc herniation treatment will also begin in time. Visit Manipal Hospitals, Mysore, and consult the top neurosurgeon. Start the treatment procedures now. 


You can prevent disc herniation through:

  • Regular exercises

  • Good postures

  • Healthy weight

  • Quitting smoking.

If disc herniation compresses the entire spinal canal, your condition will be considered severe. This also includes your nerves. You may experience paralysis or permanent weakness if this issue is not addressed in time. 

Even though it is not always fruitful, you can apply the following measures to start with the treatment. 

  • Walking

  • Swimming

  • Stretching 

  • Other low-impact exercises

  • Cold therapy

  • Hot compress

However, it is always advisable to consult your doctor for proper treatment. 

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