Think of the discs in your spine as little shock absorbers. They’re the squishy-on-the-inside, sturdy-on-the-outside cushions between your vertebrae that safeguard your spine.
However, when some of that squishy matter (the nucleus) finds its way out of a tear on the outer part of your disc (the annulus), you have a herniated or ruptured disc. This is one of the most common back problems, typically affecting your lower back or neck area.
Dr. Benjamin Cohen provides expert treatment for patients dealing with the pain and limited mobility that a herniated disc can cause. As a board-certified neurosurgeon, he can also recommend minimally invasive surgical solutions, should that become necessary.
As a true partner in your care, Dr. Cohen carefully analyzes your medical history and condition and crafts an individualized treatment plan.
How do I know if I have a herniated disc?
Surprisingly, you may never be aware that you have a herniated disc because it often doesn’t trigger symptoms. If you experience problems, they’re usually localized around the area of your herniated disc or anywhere along the path of a nearby nerve.
For example, if your ruptured disc is in your lower back, you may feel pain in your lower back, buttocks, leg, thigh, calf, or even your foot.
If your herniated disc occurs in your neck, you may experience neck, arm, or shoulder pain.
Pain from a herniated disc can be stabbing and sharp, and it can travel to your extremities (arms or legs) when you make an unexpected, intense movement like coughing or moving a certain way.
You may also notice an uncomfortable loss of sensation or tingling because of a herniated disc and muscle weakness, which can affect your movement.
When to wait and see and when to seek help
There’s some encouraging news about herniated discs. Most people who experience them — about 90% — recover within six months without medical intervention.
Home treatment, which consists of rest, heat or ice therapy, and taking over-the-counter pain relievers, often helps too.
Sometimes treatment is needed, however. When you see Dr. Cohen about a herniated whose symptoms don’t resolve or are severe, he can help.
After carefully evaluating you, which may require imaging tests, he may recommend:
- Prescription anti-inflammatory pain relievers or muscle relaxants
- Physical therapy
- Spinal injections that contain steroids
In rare cases, surgery is necessary for patients who are suffering from debilitating pain and mobility issues. Dr. Cohen usually considers one of these procedures:
- Discectomy, during which he removes your herniated disc
- Laminectomy, the removal of the rear portion of your vertebra to reduce spinal pressure
- Artificial disc surgery, where an artificial disc replaces the original
- Spinal fusion, a procedure that connects two vertebrae to stabilize them
Spinal fusion involves Dr. Cohen using metal pins, rods, screws, and plates to fortify your vertebrae, while bone-stimulating graft material that he places during the procedure gradually fuses the bones.
Dr. Cohen uses cutting-edge technology and techniques to perform surgery and whenever possible, chooses to perform minimally invasive procedures. As compared to traditional open surgery, which requires a long incision, minimally invasive methods are much less traumatic to the body.
Minimally invasive procedures lead to faster recovery and reduce pain, bleeding, scarring, and the risk of post-surgical infection.
Keeping your weight in check, exercising, maintaining good posture, and avoiding smoking are all things you can do to lower your risk of a herniated disc.
Contact our Garden City Plaza office at 516-246-5008 to schedule an in-office or telemedicine appointment with Dr. Cohen, or contact us through our website.