Ruptured Disc

Ruptured Disc Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

A ruptured disc, also known as a slipped disc, bulging disc, or herniated disc occurs when the rubbery disc that cushions the bones of your spine herniates, or ruptures, causing the disc to press against the nerves of your spine. This typically causes pain that may radiate through your spine, neck, arms, or legs.

What are the Symptoms of a Ruptured Disc?

The most common symptom of a ruptured disc is pain.  While a herniated disc occurs at your spine, the pain caused by the disc pressing on a nerve could cause pain in other areas of your body.

The most common areas where patients experience pain include:

  • Leg pain.  Patients with a ruptured disc may experience pain in their lower legs.
  • Shoulder pain.  Pain from the back and neck may radiate into the shoulder or shoulder blade. Learn more about shoulder pain »
  • Arm pain.  Patients with a ruptured disc may also experience arm pain, as the nerves affected by the ruptured disc may be connected to the nerves of the arm. Learn more about arm pain »

Not all ruptured discs cause noticeable symptoms.  Sometimes, a patient may have a ruptured disc and not even know it.  Only your physician can tell you for sure if you have a ruptured disc.

What Causes a Ruptured Disc?

Ruptured discs have a variety of causes. A herniated disc is most commonly the result of natural degeneration of discs over time.  Aging forces your spinal discs to lose some water and as a result, they lose flexibility and become more susceptible to rupturing or tearing.

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to determine the exact cause of a bulging disc. Falls or other traumatic events rarely lead to bulging discs.

How is a Ruptured Disc Treated?

There are three main treatments for ruptured discs: pain management, therapy, and back surgery.

  • Pain management.  Pain management involves treating the pain associated with your ruptured disc, including using prescription medications.
  • Therapy.  Physical therapy trains you to mitigate the symptoms of your ruptured disc through rest, exercises, stretches, and other lifestyle changes.
  • Surgery.  If your ruptured disc doesn’t respond to conservative treatments, surgery may be an option.  Your physician may recommend a surgical treatment called a discectomy, which involves removing the portion of the ruptured disc that is pressing against the nerve and causing pain. Learn more about back surgery »

Your physician will likely start the treatment process with conservative treatments and move to treatments like surgery if your ruptured disc doesn’t gradually improve through medication and therapy.

If you have been diagnosed with a ruptured disc, or if you would like to be assessed by a professional and you live in the Unifour area, you can find world-class treatment close to home without traveling across the state to see a specialist.

The board-certified spine and pain experts at EmergeOrtho: Foothills Region are specially trained to diagnose and treat spine conditions with the quality of care that you would expect from a “big city” hospital.

  • While most spine and pain clinics require you to have an MRI before you can make an appointment, we don’t require you to add that expense and delay getting the relief you need.
  • Receive excellent treatment close to home.
  • You can select from a number of different hospitals for surgeries and procedures and avoid driving far distances to larger cities.
  • Your surgery or procedure can be performed at any of the following hospitals: Frye Regional Medical Center & Catawba Valley Medical Center in Hickory, Caldwell UNC Healthcare in Lenoir, or Carolinas Healthcare System Blue Ridge in Morganton.