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Types of ruptured disc by location in the spine

Types of ruptured discs are differentiated by the region of the spine where the damaged disc is located. The three location-based types are cervical (upper) thoracic (middle) and lumbar (lower), based on the corresponding areas of the spinal column. Ruptured discs, also called herniated discs, in the cervical and lumbar spine are the most common due to the amount of flexibility they have and the weight they support. Learning more about these types of ruptured discs can give you a better overview of the condition and potentially help you get more effective treatment if this condition is interfering with your life.

How the types of ruptured discs cause symptoms

Our spines are constructed to support the upper body and head while protecting the spinal cord as it travels from the brain to the rest of the body. The nerves that branch off from the three regions of the spine send sensory information to different parts of the body. If a ruptured disc in any of these areas interferes with the spinal cord or a nerve root, it can cause symptoms in that same area. For example, the cervical spine gives sensation to the neck, shoulders arms, hands and fingers. While the nerves in the lumbar spine travel to the buttocks, hips, legs, feet and toes.

While their location varies, the symptoms of the three different types of ruptured discs are very similar. Regardless of type, most patients who have symptoms of nerve compression from a ruptured disc report the following symptoms:

  • Pain, both local and radiating
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Muscle weakness

Treatment for a ruptured disc

A ruptured disc is usually diagnosed after a physical exam, medical history review and diagnostic tests reveal one as the source of pain and discomfort. If an initial course of conservative treatment options such as rest, medication, physical therapy and steroid injections don’t bring lasting relief, surgery may be considered.

Many patients are anxious at the prospect of spine surgery due to the large incision, hospitalization and risk of complication involved with a traditional open neck or back procedure. If you have these concerns, reach out to USA Spine Care to learn about a safer and effective alternative to traditional spine surgery.^ Our highly-skilled surgeons perform minimally invasive spine surgery that uses a less than 1-inch incision, which leads to an outpatient procedure for our patients.

To learn more and to find out if you may be a candidate, contact our dedicated team of Patient Empowerment Consultants today for a no-cost MRI review.*

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