Herniated discs, often referred to as “slipped” or “ruptured” discs, are a very common cause of back and neck pain. Damage to the discs in the spine can put pressure on the nerves that branch out from the spine, resulting in back or neck pain, as well as pain, numbness, or weakness in one or more of the limbs.
Dr. Franco Vigna is a fellowship-trained spine surgeon and board-certified orthopedic surgeon. He was trained in procedures like lumbar disc replacement, and cervical disc replacement before they were even approved in the United States, so he has extensive experience in these areas. However, though he is trained in spine surgery, Dr. Vigna recommends viable nonsurgical treatments before he considers surgery for a patient. Together with reVive Spine Center’s comprehensive team of experts, including physical therapy, interventional pain management, and chiropractic care, Dr. Vigna’s #1 goal is to get patients back to the life they enjoy.
Causes & Symptoms of Herniated Discs
A herniated disc occurs when the gel-like center of the disc bulges out and puts pressure on one or more of the nerves branching out from the spine. Dr. Vigna often compares herniated discs to parking a car on a garden hose--the pressure from the car tire prevents the hose from working properly just as the pressure from the herniated disc prevents the nerve from functioning properly.
There are several potential causes of herniated discs, including motor vehicle accidents and work-related injuries. A common risk factor is age. As we get older, our discs tend to lose water content, causing them to shrink and become less flexible. This can leave a person more susceptible to disc herniation. Other risk factors include improper lifting techniques, smoking, being overweight, and repetitive activities that put stress on the spine.
Symptoms can vary based on the location of the herniated disc, but may include:
- Back or neck pain
- Tingling, numbness, and/or weakness in one of the arms or legs (Radiculopathy)
- Sharp, shooting pain that extends down the arm or leg
- In severe cases, loss of bladder or bowel control
Diagnosing Herniated Discs
The diagnostic process for herniated discs is very important, as other spine conditions can cause similar symptoms. Dr. Vigna feels that a thorough evaluation process is very important, so that the patient gets the right treatment.
Diagnosis includes a physical exam and imaging tests like x-rays and MRIs. Electromyography (EMG) testing may also be done to help pinpoint the location of symptoms.
Beyond the examination and testing, Dr. Vigna feels that the most important part of the diagnostic process is simply listening to his patients and asking the right questions. By taking the time to hear what his patients are experiencing, he can better hone in on the problem and what treatment options might be best for the patient’s needs and lifestyle.
Treatment Options for Herniated Disc
Though Dr. Vigna is a highly trained spine surgeon, his goal is not to convince every patient that they need to have surgery to address herniated discs. Rather, he and his team work together to provide a wide range of nonsurgical options to help patients delay or avoid the need for surgery. Dr. Vigna will recommend surgery if viable nonsurgical options are exhausted and the patient still does not have the quality of life he or she desires.
Whether surgical or nonsurgical, the goal of treatment is to address the underlying problem and relieve symptoms so that patients can return to the lifestyle they enjoy. Those goals could be as simple as playing with your grandkids or returning to work and a more active lifestyle.
Nonsurgical Treatments for Herniated Discs
With nonsurgical treatment, we typically begin with the most conservative, least invasive options and progress from there depending on the patient’s needs. Nonsurgical treatments for herniated discs might include:
- Chiropractic care
- Massage therapy
- Physical therapy
- Interventional pain management
- Nonoperative spinal decompression
The reVive Spine Center team includes Dr. John Swinarski, an interventional pain management specialist, and Dr. Shaun Morgan, who specializes in chiropractic care and nonoperative spinal decompression. Patients often benefit from a combination of these treatments, and having all of the providers on the same team ensures that everyone is on the same page about the patient’s needs and treatment goals.
When guided by a thorough diagnostic and evaluation process, many patients with herniated discs can benefit greatly from chiropractic care, massage therapy, physical therapy, and spinal decompression, when appropriate. Interventional pain management also plays an important role in nonsurgical treatment. Interventional pain management involves administering long-acting injections, often under ultrasound or x-ray guidance, to help manage pain and allow patients to more actively participate in physical therapy and chiropractic treatment. These injections can help patients avoid over-the-counter medications that can cause health problems, as well as avoiding highly addictive opioid pain medications.
If nonsurgical treatments prove ineffective in helping patients return to their desired quality of life, then surgery may be considered.
Surgical Procedures for Herniated Discs
Surgical procedures for herniated discs can vary based on the location of the herniated disc, how many herniated discs are present, and what is best for the patient’s health and level of activity. Dr. Vigna tailors his recommendations to the patient’s needs.
Surgical procedures for herniated discs in the neck may include:
- Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion
- Minimally invasive spinal fusion
- Cervical disc replacement
Surgical procedures for herniated discs in the back may include:
- Minimally invasive discectomy
- Spinal fusion with fixation devices
Depending on the procedure and the patient’s health, Dr. Vigna may do the surgery as an outpatient procedure. Following surgery, many patients are up and walking the same day. If needed, patients may work with physical therapy in recovery.
Dr. Vigna and his staff will advise when it is safe to return to certain activities. When fully healed, he encourages patients to be active and participate in their favorite activities.
Herniated Disc Treatment in Western New York
Dr. Franco Vigna is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with fellowship training in spinal surgery. Dr. Vigna feels that the most important part of treatment is taking the time to listen to his patients to understand what they are experiencing. When appropriate, he will work with his team, which includes chiropractic care and interventional pain management, to help patients delay or avoid surgery. Surgery is considered when necessary to help patients get back to the activities they enjoy. If you would like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Vigna, please call our office at 716-629-3338 or use our convenient appointment request form.