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Back Stories

How dangerous is a torn disc in the back?

Herniated DiscHow dangerous is a torn disc

Torn disc in the back?

Herniated disc. Ruptured disc. Torn disc. There are a few names for the painful condition that occurs when a disc’s “jelly-like nucleus pushes against its outer ring due to wear and tear or a sudden injury,” said the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). Whatever you call it, you’re going to want to find relief as quickly as possible when the pain from a torn disc hits. Not only can torn discs cause extreme discomfort on their own, which typically manifests as lower back pain, but they can also lead to debilitating and potentially dangerous conditions.


The word “sciatica” tends to strike fear in those who have previously suffered from the ailment or those who have heard horror stories about searing pain in the upper buttock, weakness in the leg, and pins and needles or numbness all the way down the path of the sciatic nerve. The symptoms of sciatica result “from an irritated or compressed sciatic nerve,” said DISC Spine Institute. “They may be described as dull, sharp, burning, aching or stabbing, and may worsen as you are sitting for an extended amount of time or if you are laughing, sneezing or coughing.  Walking may also aggravate the situation.”

Sciatica pain is often the tipoff to a disc problem, and is also the most common symptom of a torn disc in the lower back. “Treatments for sciatica depend on the underlying reason for the nerve irritation,” said DISC Spine Institute. “Typically anti-inflammatories, rest, massage and possibly injection therapy can dramatically improve sciatica.” In some cases, Discectomy or Microdiscectomy surgery are needed to improve the patients’ condition. During these minimally invasive procedures, the disc that is compressing the sciatic nerve is removed entirely or in part.

Pinched nerves

A torn disc can put pressure on a nerve root, creating excruciating pain. In many cases, treatment can relieve the discomfort and limit the damage, but it’s important to be seen quickly by an experienced back doctor. “The earlier you get a diagnosis and treatment for nerve compression, the more quickly you’ll find relief,” said WebMD.

In severe cases, “a herniated disk can compress nerves that control the bowel and bladder, causing urinary incontinence and loss of bowel control,” said Women’s Health. Weakness or numbness in both legs in addition to the loss of bladder or bowel control are warning signs for cauda equina syndrome.

Cauda Equina Syndrome

Cauda equina syndrome is a serious medical condition that can be devastating if not treated immediately. It typically requires surgical intervention to relieve compression on the roots of the spinal nerve. Fast treatment can help prevent permanent damage, which could lead to incontinence and permanent leg paralysis. Thankfully, cauda equina syndrome is rare, but if you experience the symptoms, seek immediate emergency medical care.

If you have a torn disc or are experiencing known symptoms, contact DISC Spine Institute, experts in back care and minimally invasive treatments, the most effective medical procedures to treat and eliminate chronic back pain today. Minimally invasive surgical techniques mean treating chronic back pain is easier than ever, with outpatient treatments, small incisions, and a quicker recovery time instead of a long hospital stay.

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