Home » Spine Conditions » Herniated Nucleus Pulposus » Diagnosing and treating a herniated nucleus pulposus, or herniated disc
A herniated nucleus pulposus (HNP) diagnosis is usually reached after a patient reports to his or her physician with symptoms of pain and discomfort.
HNP is another term used for a herniated disc. This condition can become painful when the jellylike center (nucleus pulposus) of a spinal disc seeps through a tear in the exterior disc wall and spreads into the spinal canal. Some patients experience no symptoms at all, sometimes leaving this condition undiagnosed for years.
However, if the herniated nucleus pulposus touches a nerve root in the spinal canal, symptoms of pain can appear and prompt a patient to visit the doctor for a diagnosis.
How is an HNP diagnosis reached?
When symptoms are present, a physician or back specialist will usually take an account of the patient’s medical history to assess if other factors, such as a history of obesity or an especially strenuous occupation, could contribute toward the development of a herniated disc or other spinal condition.
A physical exam to test strength and reflexes will typically follow. Some diagnostic tests may also be required, which could include one or more of the following:
- Blood tests
- A discography
- An MRI
These diagnostic tests allow the physician to view the spine in detail and accurately determine what is compressing on the pinched nerve and, if it is a herniated nucleus pulposus, what has caused it to happen.
Once a physician has definitively diagnosed the condition, treatment to alleviate the pain and symptoms associated with a herniated disc can begin.
How is HNP treated?
In many cases, a herniated nucleus pulposus will respond to a series of conservative treatments. These treatments are nonsurgical and focus on relieving the symptoms through two methods: decompressing the pinched nerve and blocking the nerve from sending pain signals to the brain.
The common conservative treatments for a herniated nucleus pulposus include:
- Pain medication
- Physical therapy
- Low-impact exercises
- Weight loss
- Stretches and yoga
- Core exercises
- Corticosteroid injections
Some patients may not respond to conservative treatment for relief from HNP symptoms. In this case, surgery may be recommended.
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