The discs are the cushion between the vertebrae of the spine, and the discs in the lumbar portion of the back are the most commonly injured as they support all of the upper body weight. Discs are made up of two parts - the annulus and the nucleus pulposis. The annulus is the outer ring that attaches to the vertebrae. The nucleus pulposis is located inside of the annulus and is a soft cartilage that provides the cushioning of the vertebrae. The primary functions of the discs are to transfer the weight of the body from each of the vertebrae going down the spine, and to allow the spine to remain flexible. There are a few terms that describe similar injuries of the discs, disc herniation, rupture, protrusion and extrusion. All of these terms are referring to the leakage of the nucleus pulposis out of the annulus.
When treating herniated discs
, surgeons typically prefer the patient to eliminate activities that aggravate the disc that is injured for up to six weeks as well as prescribe medications to reduce inflammation and relax the muscle. If the more conservative methods do not reduce the pain of the patient, surgeons may opt for epidural steroid injections or an injection that blocks a single nerve root that is responsible for the pain. If all of the non-surgical treatments fail, a surgeon will recommend different forms of surgery depending on the location of the herniation.
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