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Herniated Disc

A herniated disc occurs when part or all of a disc slips or ruptures between the vertebrae in your spinal column. For this reason, a herniated disc is also known as a “slipped disc” or a “ruptured disc.”

Herniated disc: what you should know

  • A common symptom of a herniated disc in your lower back is sciatica, a radiating pain down your leg. Other herniated disc symptoms include tingling or weakness in your leg.  
  • If you have a herniated disc in your neck, you may experience pain, tingling or weakness in your arm or neck.
  • In most cases without neurologic issues, nonsurgical treatments will relieve herniated disc symptoms within a few days or weeks.

How can I get help for a herniated disc?

Call your primary care doctor immediately if you experience any of the following:

  • Loss of bowel or bladder control with your pain
  • Back pain or neck pain that wakes you up during your sleep
  • Numbness or weakness in your legs

Care for a herniated disc at Rush

If your primary care doctor recommends you receive further testing and evaluation for your herniated disc, Rush has specialists who can help.

Nonsurgical treatments: Spine doctors at Rush first try nonsurgical methods for herniated disc pain relief:

  • Stretching or physical therapy
  • Anti-inflammatory medication (taken by mouth)
  • Spinal injections of medication (typically steroids or anesthetic drugs) directly into the source of pain
  • Nutritional and exercise guidance if extra weight is a contributing factor

Surgical options:  Due to the disc degeneration that is common with aging, herniated disc symptoms may not always respond to nonsurgical approaches. In that case, surgery may be needed.

Spine physicians at Rush specialize in minimally invasive and traditional approaches to back and spine surgery, including some of the following:

  • Discectomy: removes part of a disc from your spinal column. This surgery may be combined with one or more of the procedures below. At Rush, a disectomy is typically performed as an outpatient procedure and often does not involve a hospital stay.
  • Laminectomy: used to create more space for the nerves by removing the lamina (or roof) of one or more vertebrae. The procedure can be performed by itself or in combination with one or more of the procedures below.
  • Spinal fusion: a surgery in which two or more vertebrae are permanently joined together. Whenever possible, spine surgeons at Rush perform fusions using minimally invasive approaches that help you heal faster and with less pain.
  • Foraminotomy: performed to remove pressure from a nerve root by removing a small portion of bone around the affected nerve root. This may be performed by itself or in combination with a laminectomy or a discectomy.

Why choose Rush for herniated disc care

  • More patients come to Rush for spine care than any other hospital in the Chicago area.
  • Rush is consistently ranked among the top U.S. hospitals for orthopedics, neurology and neurosurgery in U.S. News & World Report.
  • Spine surgeons at Rush offer, and in many cases helped pioneer, advanced treatments for spinal surgery. These advances including minimally invasive approaches that help you heal faster with less pain.

Departments and programs that treat this condition