When Is Surgery the Best Option for a Herniated Disc?

Your spine provides support for your body and allows you to move, bend, and walk. It’s also responsible for housing your spinal cord, the collection of nerves that enable your brain to communicate with the rest of your body.

Due to the wear and tear that your spine sustains on a daily basis, it’s susceptible to injury and dysfunction that cause back pain and other problems. A herniated disc is one of the most common spinal injuries, and without treatment, the condition can lead to chronic pain and mobility issues.

Surgical repair can be the best option in some cases, but not all. At LA Pain Doctor, we provide comprehensive pain management services for a wide range of conditions that cause chronic back pain. Our doctors can help you determine if surgery is the right choice to treat your herniated disc.

About herniated discs

Specialized bones called vertebrae make up your spinal column. Located between the vertebrae are soft, spongy cushions called intervertebral discs.

These discs are hard and durable on the outside (annulus) and soft and gelatinous in the center (nucleus). They act as shock absorbers to reduce stress and pressure on your spine; however, they can become vulnerable to injury over time.


When one of the discs herniates, or ruptures, the soft inner portion of the disc escapes through its outer shell, and in some cases, it can press on surrounding nerves. This pressure causes pain, tingling, and weakness in your back, arms, and legs. Discs are also lightly populated with nerve tissue, so depending on where the disc ruptures, your pain may originate at the disc itself. 

As you age, the discs that cushion your spine start to degenerate, increasing your risk of a herniation. This type of injury can be caused by simply bending or twisting the wrong way. A herniated disc can also be caused by a back strain or sprain.


A herniated disc may trigger a variety of issues; however, the location of the injury (neck, mid-back, or lower back) and its severity determine the kind of symptoms you experience. Symptoms of a herniated disc include:

Disc herniation commonly occurs in the lower back (lumbar spine), causing pain in the legs and back. When you herniate a disc in your neck (cervical spine), it triggers problems in your arms, hands, and shoulders. 

When to choose surgery

Most herniated discs respond well to nonsurgical pain management techniques and resolve on their own. You may not even know you have a herniated disc if it isn’t pressing on a nerve. 

If pain and other symptoms related to your disc herniation continue after more conservative treatments, our doctors may recommend surgical intervention. 

We typically suggest disc surgery if your symptoms are still present after several months of therapy without improvement in symptoms or if your pain is so severe that it interferes with your day-to-day life. Other instances when surgery may be the best option include:

If a surgical option is the right choice for you, several procedures are available including laminectomy, discectomy, spinal fusion, and artificial disc replacement. The type of surgery we prescribe depends on the severity of your injury, the number of discs involved, and your overall health. 

Our board-certified team of interventional pain specialists are here to help you decide if you should have surgery for your herniated disc. Call or click to request an appointment at LA Pain Doctor today.

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