Ask Dr. Brent Y. Kimball: What to Know About Herniated Discs

Ask Dr. Brent Y. Kimball: What to Know About Herniated Discs

Do I Have A Herniated Disc?

“Lots of people have herniation and lots people have bulges,” says surgeon Dr. Brent Kimball. “Not everybody that has a disk bulge has a nerve that is being pinched by it, and not everybody that has a disk bulge or herniation needs surgery for it,” he says.

The disk has two different pieces to it, including:

  • Annulus Fibrosus - the outer thick, tough layer
  • Nucleus Pulposus – the soft, well-hydrated core layer built to accept loads and compressibility

“If the outer layer, due to trauma, stress, or maybe just aging, gets a tiny weak spot; then the inner core, when pressurized will shoot out and that is when it starts to wreak havoc. It will find a nerve and compress it against another bone structure.” If that nerve is compressed for a long enough time, it will eventually start causing severe back pain.

What Are Common Symptoms of a Herniated Disc?

“One of the most common reasons a patient will end up in our office is because they are having an acute onset of really sharp or even electrical type of leg pain.,” Dr. Kimball explains. “Sometimes, patients wake up in the morning with a little pain in the low back, thinking that it is just a little crick in the muscles, so they do some stretching.”

However, he points out that throughout the next couple of days; symptoms of numbness and pain shooting down the legs, buttocks, and all the way down to the foot and toes may be apparent.

How Do You Diagnose a Herniated Disc?

The first step in diagnosing a patient with lumbar disk herniation or the above symptoms that would suggest a herniation is to do a physical exam where Dr. Kimball would check a patient’s reflexes and strengths. Just because your foot is a little weak or numb, “it doesn’t mean the patient needs surgery,” he says.

How Do You Treat A Herniated Disc?

After a thorough look at the MRI scan, Dr. Kimball will determine treatment options as well as walk patients through the process so their well-informed every step of the way. “Physical therapy and medication can calm the nerve down just enough to let the hernia settle down a little and get the leg feeling better, are a good start. Other treatment options include steroid injections and other non-surgical soft tissue approaches.”

If a patient fails these treatments and the pain is too severe, Dr. Kimball will renegotiate the problem and discuss surgical considerations so that he or she can get back to their normal routine.

What Does Surgery Involve?

Guesswork is never involved when it comes to disk herniation surgery. Dr. Kimball performs this procedure through a dime-sized, 18mm incision on one side of the spine and works a small tube through the hole to get down to the muscle. He then works his way into the bone where he shaves down just a few millimeters to find the nerve that’s being compressed.

Can You Prevent ‘Re-herniation?

“A patient could go through one herniation, have a successful surgery and then have another piece of disk pop out days, weeks, or even months later,” he says.

In order to avoid re-herniation, (and if a patient’s spine will allow it), Dr. Kimball will take the extra time in the surgery to do everything he can to prevent his patient from having this. This can be done by repairing the hole and closing the flap with a tiny suture.

If you think you may have a herniated disc or have additional questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our office at (720) 386-4508 or contact us online today!

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