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December 17, 2022

When severe nerve pain requires surgery, patients can return to their normal routines after minimally invasive procedures.

It’s one of the most common health complaints – and one of the most debilitating. It’s estimated that 80% of the population will experience some sort of back pain in their life. When the back pain is associated with nerve pain, it can interrupt the simplest of daily activities – from walking to driving to sitting at a desk. One of the leading causes of back pain is a herniated disc.

What is a herniated disc?

Herniated discs cause both acute and chronic pain if left untreated. You may have also heard of this problem referred to as slipped, ruptured or bulging discs. But they all mean the same thing – part of the disc is pressing against a nerve or the spinal cord. A healthy disc acts as a cushiony buffer between the bones in the spine, allowing ease in mobility when moving or bending over. But when a disc ruptures, it can cause sharp pain, tingling and numbness in the legs and feet and/or overall weakness in one or both legs.

What causes a herniated disc?

Although herniated discs can be caused by heavy lifting, aging can also play a major factor, as the disc naturally degenerates over time. While herniated discs are more common in the lower back, they can also occur in the neck.

How is a herniated disc diagnosed?

There are several ways doctors can diagnose the problem, including starting with an X-ray to rule out other potential causes of pain and discomfort. Doctors may also order imaging like an MRI that can show the spinal canal and potential areas of disc issues.

What are the treatment options?

Herniated discs do not always require surgery. In fact, Dr. Michael Dolphin at Orthopaedic Specialists, located in Davenport, treats many back and neck problems conservatively.

“My first recommendation will always emphasize the importance of exercise, nutrition and strengthening,” he said. “I believe strongly in the body’s ability to heal itself.”

Strengthening includes working with a physical therapist to develop an appropriate and effective rehabilitation plan for patients. Therapy can improve many back and neck symptoms, using exercise and stretching programs designed with a patient’s needs and injury in mind. Physical therapy is also vital after surgical procedures to ensure the best possible results and continued improvement of the condition.

What surgical procedures are used to treat herniated discs?

When surgery is recommended, many doctors utilize minimally invasive surgical techniques to get patients home with less pain and a faster recovery time. For patients of Dr. Dolphin, minimally invasive surgery is done at Mississippi Valley Surgery Center in Davenport. With a personalized and convenient experience for patients and family members alike, Mississippi Valley Surgery Center provides predictable scheduling and same-day discharges, allowing patients to recover comfortably at home.

While procedures depend on the patient’s condition and severity, Dr. Dolphin performs multiple surgical procedures to alleviate pain caused by herniated discs.


This procedure involves removing the herniated part of the disc that is pressing on the nerve or spinal cord, while retaining the unaffected disc. Once the section of the disc is removed, pain and numbness subside. Dr. Dolphin’s microdiscectomy techniques have perfected over 10 years and result in less damage to the muscles, allowing for a quicker return to normal activities.

Anterior cervical discectomy with fusion

One way to remove a herniation in the neck is through the front of the neck – known as the anterior approach. This procedure is best in situations where there is not only a disc herniation, but other problems like arthritis causing bone compression. After removing the herniation, the surgeon will stabilize the spine with a fusion using a plate and screws made of metal to support the healing bone. Dr. Dolphin performs this outpatient, minimally invasive procedure through a one-inch incision.

Cervical disc replacement

This procedure is again performed through the front of the neck but utilized for patients without arthritis or abnormal motion through the disc. Dr. Dolphin performs this outpatient, minimally invasive procedure though an incision approximately one inch in length – allowing the patient to return to work after a two-week post-operative follow-up.

Getting back to a life you love

If you’re experiencing back or neck issues associated with nerve pain, it may be time to seek professional help. As the leader of the spine center at Orthopaedic Specialists, Dr. Dolphin manages patients with back and neck disorders, with an emphasis on degenerative conditions like herniated discs. With the most experience of any surgeon in the Quad Cities performing outpatient back and neck surgery within an ambulatory surgery center, Dr. Dolphin performs many of his outpatient procedures at Mississippi Valley Surgery Center.

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