Herniated disk

Alternative Names

Lumbar radiculopathy; Cervical radiculopathy; Herniated intervertebral disk; Prolapsed intervertebral disk; Slipped disk; Ruptured disk; Herniated nucleus pulposus

Definition of Herniated disk

A herniated (slipped) disk occurs when all or part of a spinal disk is forced through a weakened part of the disk. This places pressure on nearby nerves.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The bones (vertebrae) of the spinal column run down the back, connecting the skull to the pelvis. These bones protect nerves that come out of the brain and travel down your back, forming the spinal cord. Nerve roots are large nerves that branch out from the spinal cord and leave your spinal column between each vertebrae.

Symptoms

Low back or neck pain can vary widely. It may feel like a mild tingling, dull ache, or a burning or pulsating sensation. In some cases, the pain is severe enough that you are unable to move. You may also have .

Signs and tests

A physical examination and history of pain may be all that your health care provider needs to diagnose a herniated disk. A neurological examination will evaluate muscle reflexes, sensation, and muscle strength. Often, examination of the spine will reveal a decrease in the spinal curvature in the affected area.

Treatment

The first treatment for a herniated disk is a short period of rest with pain and anti-inflammatory medications, followed by physical therapy. Most people who follow these treatments will recover and return to their normal activities. A small number of people need to have further treatment, which may include steroid injections or surgery.

Expectations (prognosis)

Most people will improve with conservative treatment. A small percentage may continue to have chronic back pain even after treatment.

Review

A.D.A.M. Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, and David R. Eltz. Previously reviewed by C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Dept of Orthopaedic Surgery (7/10/2009). – 5/25/2010

Skeletal spine
Sciatic nerve
Herniated nucleus pulposis
Herniated disk repair
Lumbar spinal surgery - series

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

Article written by

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability.