What is a Herniated Disc?
A herniated disc occurs when the center of the disc pushes through tears in the annulus fibrosus. It is NOT a slipped disc.
Bending forwards or twisting tears the disc, leading towards a herniated disc. Here’s an interesting fact, which often suprises even spine surgeons: the pain associated with herniated discs is caused by the liquid nucleus pulposus gel leaking through the disc’s tears and onto the pinched nerves, inflamming those nerves. This inflammation causes pain or numbness, and not the mechanical pressure of the herniated disc. This explains why epidural steroid injections provide temporary relief – they surely can’t remove the pressure, but they temporarily stop the inflammation, thus stopping the pain or numbness short-term. This indirectly proves that leaky discs are the underlying cause of symptoms.
The Discseel® Procedure
The Discseel® Procedure is the only procedure in the world that uses an FDA-approved Fibrin Biologic to repair the annulus tear in the herniated disc, preventing the continued seeping of the torn disc’s inner gel. The biologic may also restore some of the lost height of the leaking spinal disc, helping to return mobility and eliminate back pain. Stem cells alone cannot possibly do this.
The Discseel® Procedure does not require anesthesia and there is no high risk of infection that is associated with spine surgeries, such as spinal fusions and discectomy.
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Symptoms of Herniated Discs
Although most herniated discs are found in the lower back (the lumber section), it is possible to have a herniated disc in your neck (cervical spine). The most common signs and/or symptoms of a herniated disc are:
- Arm and leg pain. With a herniated disc in your lower back, typically you’ll feel the most intense pain in your buttocks, thigh, and calf. In some cases, pain in the foot can also be present. When an individual has a herniated disc in their neck (cervical section of the spine), the pain will be most intense in the shoulders and arms. Coughing, sneezing or moving your spine into certain positions can exacerbate the pain, causing it to shoot down your arms and legs.
- Tingling or numbness. Often sufferers from a herniated disc will experience symptoms of numbness and/or tingling in parts of the body where the leaking inner disc gel is putting pressure on the related spinal nerves.
- Weakness and muscles fatigue. The muscles served by the affected nerves tend to weaken from the nerve pressure. This may cause impaired ability to lift or hold items. Often symptoms will cause the herniated disc sufferer to stumble or falter when walking.
Though it is not often the case, an individual can suffer from a herniated disc without knowing it. This could be due to minor herniation or a lack of pressure being applied to the spinal nerves. This type of herniation may only be found with x-ray images of the cervical or lumbar spine regions.
Why the Discseel® Procedure is better than other treatment options
There are several treatment options for herniated discs and not all of them are the same. The common or traditional solutions included:
- Simple over the counter pain medication to high dose narcotics. This can lead to dependence and even addiction, a difference in one’s mental state, and other related medical complications.
- Cortisone/steroid injections. This is the injecting of a corticosteroid or epidural directly into the area of the spine where the herniated disc inner gel is leaking and the surrounding spinal nerves. The hope is to remove the swelling and inflammation long enough for the disc to heal. Unfortunately for most, this is a source of temporary relief.
- Chiropractic. Spinal manipulation has been found, like steroid injections, to be moderately effective on lower or lumbar back pain.
More aggressive surgical options have been known to be effective in severe cases of herniation. These should only be considered after conservative treatments have failed to improve your symptoms.
- Discectomy. This is a procedure where a surgeon puts the patient under anesthesia then removes the protruding portion of the disc. Overall it does weaken the disc; however, it is a brief respite to the pain. Most patients go years without the return of pain from this procedure, but it is not a cure.
- Spinal Fusion. In extremely rare cases the herniated vertebrae disc may need to be completely removed. In these cases, the vertebrae above and below the herniated disc are fused together with metal hardware to provide the required spinal stability. This method reduces movement significantly.
Non-invasive options for treating a herniated disc are limited as the goal is to relieve both the pain and pressure being applied to the nerves, as well as address any swelling; it is a complex problem. Any comprehensive procedure needs to restore a significant portion of the original disc height while repairing the annulus tear that is causing the leak from the inner disc gel.
The most successful results for non-invasive treatments have been found in the use of biologics. It is important to understand that not all biologic procedures are the same or have been shown to have the same results.
- Stem cells with growth factor proteins. Stem cells are primarily harvested from one of two sources: bone marrow, or umbilical cord blood capture. If the cells are from cord blood, there is a high probability that the stems cells themselves have died as a result of the process. Bone marrow stem cells are the result of using a bone marrow aspiration needle that extracts the cells from bone. In both cases, the stem cells (alive or dead) are separated/concentrated in a centrifuge and injected into the damaged disc. The goal is that growth factor proteins will repair the tear before the newly injected stem cells leak out of the herniated disc. Coupled with rest and recovery, this treatment is promising.
- Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP). This procedure extracts blood from the patient in question via regular venipuncture. The platelets are then isolated, concentrated and injected into the injured area. This non-surgical regenerative medicine is used to treat muscle strains and tears and is often used in combination with other therapies to aid in the healing process.