Disc Herniation

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Although disc herniation can cause a wide range of symptoms, depending on the location of the herniated disc, sometimes individuals won’t experience any side effects. The best way to truly identify when disc herniation has occurred is to consult with an experienced and knowledgeable orthopedic expert.

At OrthoAspen, our spine care specialists use the most innovative approaches to determine not only whether a patient has experienced disc herniation, but also to what degree. It’s our goal to return our patients to the lifestyle and routines to which they are accustomed.

Causes & Symptoms

The most common cause of disc herniation is repetitive movement. Naturally, the aging process causes wear and tear in the discs of the spine over time. When the outer fibers (annulus) of the intervertebral disc are damaged, the soft inner material of the nucleus pulposus ruptures leading to the disc moving out of its space.

There are two types of disc herniation: lumbar and cervical disc herniation.

When a herniated disc occurs in the lower back (lumbar spine) a tear in the outer lining of the disc (annulus fibrosus) causes the inner jelly-like material (nucleus pulposus) to leak out. This places pressure on the adjacent spinal nerve root. A lumbar herniated disc is the most common cause of low back pain and pain that radiates down the leg (radiculopathy).

Symptoms include:

  • Back pain that radiates to buttocks and legs
  • Numbness in the leg or foot
  • Weakness in the leg or foot
  • (Rarely) loss of bowel and bladder control

A herniated disc in the cervical (neck) region is referred to as a cervical disc herniation (CDH). CDH most commonly affects individuals between 30-40 years of age as well as elderly people. Those experiencing CDH experience arm or neck pain that often arises due to compression of the spinal nerves by the protruding disc material. The foremost causes and risk factors involved in the development of cervical herniated disc are advanced age, trauma or injury, abrupt neck movements, smoking and genetic factors.

Symptoms include:

  • Pain, numbness and/or weakness in the neck, shoulders, chest, arms and hands

To confirm a lumbar disc herniation or CDH diagnosis, your OrthoAspen physician will go over your medical history accompanied by a physical examination. Additional diagnostic tests will likely include X-Rays, CT and/or MRI scans.

Your OrthoAspen doctor may also suggest electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction velocity (NCV) tests, widely used for accurate and more precise diagnosis of CDH.


Once your OrthoAspen orthopedic spine expert has diagnosed lumbar disc herniation or CDH, a treatment plan will be applied. It’s always our goal to first implement conservative treatment methods whenever possible.

Lumbar Disc Herniation Treatment

  • Conservative treatment includes pain medications, physical therapy and avoiding strenuous activity when pain is severe. Epidural Steroid Injection (ESI) can be considered if the pain is intolerable even with medications and rest.
  • Surgical treatment is performed as a microdiscectomy. This surgical procedure removes a herniated part of the disk and any fragments that are putting pressure on the spinal nerve. A surgical microscope and microsurgical techniques are applied to gain access to the lumbar spine. The microscope magnifies and illuminates the area of operation. Only a small portion of the herniated disc that pinches on the nerve roots is removed.

Cervical disc herniation treatment

  • Conservative treatment includes adequate rest, massage of the neck, ice or heat compression, physical therapy, strengthening exercises, chiropractic care and medications, including epidural steroid injections (ESIs). In addition, widely accepted holistic therapies such as acupuncture, acupressure and nutritional supplements are also extensively used.
  • Surgical treatment is recommended for those patients who are not responding to non-surgical measures. Moreover, numerous other factors such as patient age, other medical conditions, previous neck surgeries and duration of suffering are considered. Highly advanced surgical techniques such as anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF), artificial disc replacement and posterior cervical discectomy, have shown tremendous results. Due to further advancement in technology, a discectomy can be performed through minimally invasive techniques that employ a small incision for the operation. These advanced techniques have diminished recovery time and improved the success rate.

If you are concerned you may be experiencing lumbar and/or cervical disc herniation, our OrthoAspen experts are here to help you navigate the process of diagnosis and treatment. We strive to help patients return to their active lifestyles and routines as quickly—and as safely—as possible.

To schedule a consultation with an OrthoAspen physician, simply click here or call us at 970-544-1289.


Visit OrthoAspen in two convenient locations
Aspen Clinic
Aspen Valley Hospital
0401 Castle Creek Rd., Suite 2100,

Aspen, CO 81611
+(970) 544-1289
+(970) 544-1400
Basalt Clinic
Midvalley Medical Center
1450 E. Valley Rd., Suite 201,

Basalt, CO 81621
+(970) 544-1289
+(970) 544-1400