Herniated Disk

People who have a herniated disk caused by lumbar disk disease find expert diagnosis and treatment at Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN). Our expert spine team gets you a precise diagnosis and develops a treatment plan customized to your needs.

Lumbar disk disease affects the disks in between the spinal bones. This condition can lead to a bulging disk and eventually a herniated disk, causing pain, weakness and numbness. A herniated disk can make even routine movement painful.

The LVHN spine experts work with you to diagnose the source of your symptom and discuss your treatment options with you. These include everything from conservative methods such as physical therapy and chiropractic treatment to intricate spinal surgeries.  

A herniated disk occurs in the lumbar area of the spine in the lower back). The spine is made up of:

  • Vertebrae, made of bone
  • Disks, located between the vertebrae, which act as shock absorbers for the spine

Lumbar disk disease typically happens as we age and the disks lose fluid and dry out. A severe trauma can also cause or worsen the problem. You may experience:

  • Bulging disk: As the disk dries out, it compresses. This pressure on the disk causes the inside, called the nucleus, to bulge.
  • Herniated disk: The disk continues to wear out, causing the nucleus to rupture. Fragments of the disk press on the nerve roots in the spine, resulting in pain and weakness.  As the disk continues to wear out, the pressure on the nucleus can cause it to rupture which is known as disk herniation.

Why choose LVHN for herniated disk treatment?

When you come to LVHN, you will find:

  • Expert diagnosis: We use the latest diagnostic technology to get you answers promptly. Our team has years of experience diagnosing people with lumbar disk disease.
  • Full range of nonsurgical treatments: We develop a customized plan that may include physical therapy, chiropractic services and medication. Our goal is to get you moving again.
  • Expert surgical care: We use the latest surgical techniques, including intra-operative imaging, which allows us to view the affected area during surgery. This enables us to perform the safest, most effective procedure possible.    

Herniated disk symptoms

People may experience symptoms differently, depending on where the disk has herniated. Common symptoms include:

  • Back pain that may worsen when you move, cough, sneeze or stand for a long time
  • Back spasm
  • Sciatica pain that starts near the buttock and extends down the leg
  • Muscle weakness or numbness in the leg
  • Decreased knee or ankle reflexes
  • Changes in bladder or bowel function

Herniated disk diagnosis

Your diagnosis will begin with a medical history and physical examination. Then we may recommend testing:

  • X-ray: An X-ray provides detailed pictures of internal tissues, bones and organs.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): A large magnet and radio waves produce detailed images of the body.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan: X-rays and computer technology produce detailed images of the body.
  • Electromyography (EMG): Tiny electrodes inserted into muscle test for abnormal electrical signals.
  • Myelogram: This test uses a special dye that we inject to highlight the spinal cord and nerves.

Herniated disk treatment

After confirming a diagnosis, we discuss your treatment options with you.

Nonsurgical treatment methods include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Chiropractic medicine
  • Learning proper body mechanics to decrease the pain and damage to the disc
  • Weight loss
  • Using a back brace or belt for support

Surgery may be an option if conservative therapies do not provide sufficient relief. Our spine surgeons provide safe, effective procedures using minimally invasive methods. Typically, surgery involves removing the herniated part of the disk and loose pieces of disk from the space. Learn more about herniated disk surgery