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A herniated nucleus pulposus can be extremely painful — discover how Laser Spine Institute can diagnose and treat this condition at our St. Louis surgery center

If you have a herniated nucleus pulposus, it’s important to understand the causes of this fairly common degenerative condition that affects the spinal discs. Fortunately, there are a variety of treatment options that have helped many patients minimize or eliminate their symptoms.

What is a herniated nucleus pulposus?

In a spinal disc, the nucleus pulposus is the gel-like inner core that helps the disc cushion the vertebrae in the spinal column. When a disc becomes herniated, the outer layer, or annulus fibrosus, cracks or tears and its inner contents are able to escape into the spinal canal. When this results in pressure being applied to the spinal cord or a spinal nerve root, you may begin to experience pain and other symptoms.

Diagnosing a herniated nucleus pulposus

Before your physician can make a diagnosis of a herniated nucleus pulposus, he or she will want to review your full medical history to look for factors that may increase your risk of developing this condition. Once the review has been completed, you will likely undergo a physical exam where your doctor will try to gauge your flexibility, muscle strength and range of motion in different areas that may be affected. If your physician believes that you are have a degenerative spinal condition, a diagnostic imaging procedure (MRI, CT scan or X-ray) will be used to pinpoint the source of your symptoms so a treatment plan can be designed.

What are the likely causes of a herniated nucleus pulposus?

Every person experiences some level of deterioration in their spinal column as they grow older because of the constant stress the spine endures. For this reason, the occurrence rate of degenerative spinal conditions, such as a herniated nucleus pulposus, rises greatly in people ages 50 and older. Additionally, there are several risk factors — such as obesity, overexertion, high-impact sports and tobacco use — which increase the likelihood of a disc herniation.

What are the symptoms of a herniated nucleus pulposus?

Often, a herniated nucleus pulposus will not result in noticeable symptoms. However, if the spinal cord or a nearby nerve root are put under pressure because of the herniation, pain and other symptoms become much more likely. Localized pain, pain that radiates down a nerve pathway, numbness and tingling are all potential symptoms of a herniated nucleus pulposus.

How is a herniated nucleus pulposus treated?

Most physicians will recommend a combination of conservative options for the treatment of a herniated nucleus pulposus, and some patients may choose to supplement their treatment plan with a variety of alternative options. Popular conservative treatments include lifestyle modifications to shed excess weight, strengthening exercises for the muscles surrounding the spine, physical therapy, pain medications, stretching and more. While not clinically proven to provide relief from the symptoms of a herniated nucleus pulposus, alternative treatments such as acupuncture, chiropractic care and yoga are also popular. Always consult with your doctor when exploring these types of treatments.

Is surgery also an option for a herniated nucleus pulposus?

If you have completed a course of conservative and alternative treatment and the symptoms of your herniated nucleus pulposus are still limiting your daily activities, surgery may be a consideration. At Laser Spine Institute in St. Louis, MO, our board-certified surgeons+ perform outpatient surgery to treat a full range of degenerative spinal conditions, including a herniated nucleus pulposus.

Contact us today to find out if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive surgery by getting a no-cost MRI review* from our dedicated team.