degenerative spinal disease and disc herniation

The spine has vertebra stacked atop another. Sandwiched between vertebrae is a cushion – a disk of cartilage. These disks serve as shock absorbers. Each disk has a soft interior and firm exterior. Herniation occurs when the soft interior pushes through the firm exterior. This can irritate nerves in the spinal canal. That can result in pain, numbness and weakness in various body parts.  Often, herniation occurs when disks lose flexibility from degeneration due to aging. As this happens, disks tend to tear or rupture. Fortunately, the overwhelming majority – 90 percent -- of herniated discs do not require surgery. Instead, rest, physical therapy, over-the-counter pain medicine and alternate use of cold packs and heat are all that’s needed. If required, surgical options may include fusing vertebrae, laminectomy to enlarge the spinal canal or microdiskectomy to relieve pressure on an affected nerve.

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