In the spine, discs are spongy cushions located between the bony vertebrae that make up the backbone. These discs stabilize the spine and act as shock absorbers.
An accident like a fall, a blow or a sudden twisting motion can tear the outer part of the disc, causing back pain. If the tear becomes worse, the soft material in the center of the disc can seep out, causing a herniated or ruptured disc.
Most disc tears heal with conservative treatments like rest, gentle exercise and physical therapy. At Aurora Health Care, you can choose from a wide range of noninvasive treatments based on how severe your torn disc is. And if you need surgical care, our orthopedic and spine surgeons have advanced expertise in minimally invasive approaches to help you get back to the things you love faster.
If you suspect you might have a torn disc, it’s important to consult a doctor. Whether you need sports medicine care, physical therapy or orthopedic spine care, you’ll find the treatment you need in Aurora’s single, coordinated health system.
If you have a disc tear, you’ll likely feel back pain that is:
Most disc tears occur because of aging. The spinal discs are under constant strain from supporting the neck and back. By age 30, these discs begin to deteriorate and weaken. In addition to weakness due to aging, twisting or bending can also cause a torn disc.
In younger people, a traumatic injury to the back may tear the outer layer of the disc. These tears can happen because of:
When you come in for a diagnosis, we’ll examine your lower back and check your ability to move your back, legs and arms. We’ll also ask if you noticed when the back pain began and about any other symptoms you might be having.
You might have X-rays or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, which uses a strong magnetic field to create images. These images let us see what’s going on inside your spine. To confirm a torn disc, we may also order discography, an X-ray that uses dye injected into the discs.
Learn more about orthopedic diagnosis at Aurora.
Most disc tears recover with time and conservative treatments like physical therapy, low-impact exercise and anti-inflammatory medications.
We offer other treatments that can ease the discomfort of a disc tear, including: