Herniated Disc

The spine features cushioning discs that sit between vertebrae and act as shock absorbers. Each disc features a tough, rubbery exterior and a soft, gel-like core. Whether by sudden injury or years of wear, a tear can form on the exterior of a disc and cause its core to push into the spinal canal. This problem is referred to as a herniated disc.

If you need care for a herniated disc in the spine, Tampa General Hospital’s Neuroscience Institute can help. TGH provides more neurological services than any center in the region and is ranked among the top 10% of hospitals nationwide for Neurology and Neurosurgery by U.S. News & World Report for 2023-24. Furthermore, TGH is one of two spine centers in the country with the ability to perform lateral disc replacement and fusion with a patient solely in the prone position—an advantage for patients and surgeons alike.

Causes of Herniated Discs

A herniated disc can result from a sudden injury, such as one that may be sustained in a vehicle accident or while playing a contact sport. Most often, though, spinal disc herniation is the consequence of the body’s natural aging process. As we grow older, spinal discs gradually lose height, wear down and become more vulnerable to tearing.

Certain factors can increase a person’s risk of experiencing a herniated disc in the spine, including:

  • Being overweight
  • Participating in high-impact exercises
  • Frequently lifting heavy objects
  • Smoking
  • Having poor posture

Herniated Disc Symptoms

The symptoms of a herniated disc will depend on its severity and location within the spine, but localized pain is often the first sign. Someone with a herniated disc that is pressing against a nearby spinal nerve may experience:

  • Radiating numbness or tingling sensations
  • Pain that travels to surrounding areas of the body—for example, a herniated disc in the neck can cause shoulder pain
  • Muscle weakness or loss of coordination
  • Sciatic nerve pain

Diagnosing a Herniated Disc

A thorough review of symptoms along with a physical and neurological exam is often all that’s necessary to diagnose a herniated disc in the spine. However, a physician may also order an imaging test to view detailed pictures of the spine and rule out other conditions.

Herniated Disc Treatment Options 

Conservative approaches like physical therapy, stretching and medications are typically the first line of treatment for herniated discs. If severe symptoms persist, surgery may be recommended to remove the protruding portion of the disc or replace the entire disc with an implant. 

TGH’s Neuroscience Institute specializes in various robot-assisted, minimally invasive spine surgeries that address herniated discs, including cervical, thoracic and lumbar artificial disc replacement procedures.

Become a TGH Patient

To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Tampa General Hospital’s Neuroscience Institute, please call (800) 822-3627 or use our Find a Doctor database to find a neurosurgery spine specialist. Our team is here to answer any questions you may have regarding our neurological services or herniated disc treatment options.