When something is sequestered, it’s separated. If you have a sequestered spinal disc, it means part of the disc has broken off and moved elsewhere within your spinal canal. A sequestered disc happens when inner disc material pushes through the harder outside layer of a spinal disc and “escapes,” or breaks free. This free-roaming disc material sometimes irritates nearby nerve roots. If you’re experiencing pain related to a sequestered spinal disc, here’s what you need to know.
As is the case with other disc-related problems, age-related wear and tear (degeneration) can cause protruding inner disc material to break free. Acute (sudden) trauma from an auto accident, hard fall, or similar incident and excess stress caused by poor posture habits can also lead to this type of disc damage. A sequestered spinal disc may also develop because of inactivity and various lifestyle factors (e.g., excessive alcohol consumption, use of tobacco products, etc.).
Symptoms associated with a sequestered spinal disc will vary based on what part of the spine is affected and where the broken-off disc material travels to. Possible symptoms you may experience include:
• Pain in the affected area
• Discomfort affected by movement
• Reduced range of motion
• Pain that goes away when lying down or not active
• Spinal weakness
• Radiating nerve pain extending to nearby areas (e.g., your shoulders and arms if the sequestered disc is in your neck, or in your thighs, hips, and legs if your lower spine is affected)
Because symptoms associated with a sequestered disc can be very similar to what you might experience with a herniated disc, it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis from a specialist such as a Beverly Hills spine surgeon before exploring your treatment options. This process typically involves a physical examination, a discussion of symptoms, and image tests to determine if disc material has actually separated from the damaged disc.
If the sequestered part of the spinal disc hasn’t traveled far from its parent disc, you may benefit from conservative (non-surgical) treatments. In instances like this, you could experience relief from a treatment plan that includes:
• Pain medications
• Anti-inflammatory drugs
• A customized physical therapy routine
• Postural exercises to restore your spine’s normal alignment
Broken-off spinal disc material will continue to degenerate over time, but with the right approach to conservative care, your symptoms may improve. The damaged disc itself may also heal or repair itself.
Most people with sequestered spinal discs respond well to conservative treatment efforts. In rare instances when this doesn’t happen, surgery may be recommended. One option with surgery is to remove the dislocated part of the disc and perform appropriate repairs to the damaged disc. It’s common today for both steps to be completed with a single procedure such as minimally invasive neck surgery. Beverly Hills patients who undergo minimally invasive neck or spine surgery generally enjoy the same results as with traditional spinal surgery but with a shorter hospital stay, less pain and scarring, and faster overall recovery.
It’s not always possible to prevent a spinal disc from becoming sequestered, but you can make an effort to keep your spine’s discs as healthy as possible by improving your posture, ditching bad habits like smoking, watching your weight, getting regular exercise, sleeping on a firm, supportive mattress, drinking plenty of water, and being mindful of your body mechanics when lifting heavy objects.
Get in touch with The Spine Institute if you think you might have sequestered spinal discs or you have any kind of lingering or severe back or neck pain. Dr. Hyun Bae and his team of expert surgeons help patients find effective relief for their chronic back and neck pain. Call 310-828-7757 to schedule an appointment.