Herniated Disc

Innovative Spine Care

Minimally Invasive Spine Specialist located in Tampa, FL

A herniated disc can't be repaired, but the nerve compression that it causes can be treated effectively. To relieve nerve compression, Stephen Watson, MD, of Innovative Spine Care in Tampa, Florida, performs a laser discectomy and neural decompression using a thulium laser to treat each symptomatic herniated disc. If you’re experiencing back or neck pain and other symptoms of a herniated disc, Dr. Watson’s expertise in minimally invasive laser discectomy could relieve your discomfort. Find out more by calling Innovative Spine Care today or booking an appointment online.

Herniated Disc Q&A

What is a herniated disc?

A herniated disc is a common cause of back and neck pain. The 23 spinal discs between the vertebrae of your spine allow you to bend without the bones grinding against each other. They’re also shock absorbers and help to hold individual vertebrae together.

Discs consist of two parts. There’s a tough outer shell (the annulus fibrosus) made of collagen fibers and a soft inner core (the nucleus pulposus) made of loosely connected fibers suspended in a protein gel. 

The discs are about 80% water and soft in children and adolescents, but they begin drying out as you get older. This condition — degenerative disc disease — weakens the disc’s outer shell, so the core can press against it (bulging disc) or push through a tear in the shell (herniated disc).

Although trauma can occasionally cause herniated discs, they’re often due to a combination of degenerative disc disease and a movement that stresses the disc.

What symptoms does a herniated disc cause?

Bulging and herniated discs press on the nerve roots as they exit your spinal canal, causing pain in the affected part of your back that often radiates into the area the nerve serves. 

Lumbar disc herniation in your lower back is the most common area affected, but herniated discs can also affect your cervical spine (neck). Signs that you have a herniated disc include:

  • Buttock and leg pain with lumbar disc herniation
  • Shoulder and arm pain with cervical disc herniation
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Weakness

To diagnose your symptoms, Dr. Watson performs a thorough physical exam. He checks your back for tenderness and observes what movements cause pain. He also tests your reflexes, muscle strength, and sensory abilities and evaluates how well you can walk. 

He might also order diagnostic imaging tests such as X-rays, a CT or MRI scan, or a myelogram.

What treatments can help with a herniated disc?

To treat a herniated disc, Dr. Watson performs laser discectomy and neural decompression using a thulium laser.

He places a needle into the back of your herniated disc through a 2- to 3-millimeter incision in your skin. He then applies laser (light) energy to your disc, turning off the pain receptors and sealing the blood vessels that deliver inflammatory compounds and cause much of the pain, numbness, and tingling. 

Unlike traditional discectomy and fusion surgery, laser discectomy and neural decompression don’t remove any bone or fuse the vertebrae. As a result, you retain a normal range of motion and are able to perform daily activities with reduced pain. 

Dr. Watson treats all the herniated discs during the same procedure.

To benefit from this advanced form of herniated disc treatment, call Innovative Spine Care today or book an appointment online.