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Do you have a torn disc? Learn about your condition and its treatment options with help from Laser Spine Institute Philadelphia

General overview of a torn disc

A torn disc occurs when a rip or tear forms in a spinal disc’s hard outer layer, called the annulus fibrosus. This layer is made mostly of cartilage, and encases the disc’s gel-like inner core, or nucleus pulposus. A tear in the annulus fibrosus can allow the nucleus pulposus to exit the disc and seep into the spinal canal, potentially irritating surrounding nerve roots or even the spinal cord itself.

Being diagnosed with a torn disc

If you are experiencing unexplained neck back pain that lasts for more than a couple of days, it is best to schedule an appointment with a physician who can determine the cause of your pain. The diagnostic process for a torn disc usually involves discussing your symptoms and medical history, a physical exam, and either an X-ray, CT scan or MRI to confirm your suspected diagnosis.

Factors that can cause a torn disc

Torn discs are most often caused by the natural aging process, since the loss of elasticity and reduced water content of the discs that result from aging make them more prone to damage. Traumatic injury, such as obtained in a car accident or while playing sports, can also cause a tear in a disc’s annulus fibrosus.

Symptoms of a torn disc

A torn disc can cause localized pain and inflammation at the site of the tear. Numbness, tingling, radiating pain and muscle weakness may occur if any part of the disc compresses a nerve root, and difficulty walking and loss of fine motor skills can result if the torn disc compresses the spinal cord.

Treatment for a torn disc

Upon diagnosing a patient with a torn disc, most physicians will recommend a combination of conservative treatment methods to manage their symptoms. These methods can include pain and anti-inflammatory medication, hot and cold therapy, physical therapy and stretching. Some patients take it upon themselves to explore alternative treatment on their own, and have reported success through the use of chiropractic manipulation, massage therapy and acupuncture, among other methods.

Surgery for a torn disc

Although very many patients do not need surgery to find sufficient relief from their torn disc, occasionally a patient will find several weeks or months of conservative treatment ineffective and surgery will be recommended. In this case, patients in the Philadelphia, PA, area can turn to the experts at Laser Spine Institute.

Our surgeons offer minimally invasive, outpatient spine surgery as an alternative to traditional open spine surgery. Our procedures are often the clinically appropriate first choice and offer many advantages over traditional open spine surgery, including reduced risk of infection and shorter recovery time.^ If you would like to find out if you are a candidate for our procedures, contact Laser Spine Institute for a no-cost review* of your MRI.