The vertebrae of your spine are separated and cushioned by a series of soft discs made of connective tissue (the annulus) surrounding a gel-like core (the nucleus). These discs help your spine flex and bend, and they function as shock absorbers. If the outer layer is damaged in any way, the inner gel leaks into your spinal canal, putting pressure on the surrounding nerves or spinal cord. This extrusion is called a herniation.
The nerves aggravated or pinched by the extruded disc cause pain that radiates into your arm or leg. The pain may worsen when you cough, sneeze, or simply sit. A herniated disc in your neck — the cervical spine — also can cause headaches, weakness, or tingling in all your limbs if it pinches the spinal cord.
A herniated disc can happen over a period of time or in an instant. Disc degeneration causes the spine to weaken with age, which means a rupture is more likely. Some people are more at risk for herniated discs because they have a genetic predisposition, a strenuous physical occupation, or because they smoke.
Dr. Oshtory conducts a series of diagnostic tests, such as MRI or CT scans, to locate the herniated disc and find out which nerve it affects. He sees a lot of herniated disks in the cervical and lumbar spine, a common problem for people ages 30-50. Depending on the location of the herniated disc and the level of pain it’s causing, he then recommends a customized treatment plan.
Some herniated discs respond well to pain medication, physical therapy and lifestyle changes — such as limiting sitting, or using a sit-stand desk — while others require surgical intervention. Dr. Oshtory chooses from a variety of surgical procedures to remove all or part of damaged discs and relieve pressure on the nerves. The minimally-invasive techniques used by Dr. Oshtory mean you can be treated as an outpatient, with a rapid recovery time.