Vertebrae, the series of bones connected to protect the spinal column, are each joined to one another by a disc and two small joints. When the discs between vertebrae age, they often lose water content and can become less effective as a cushion. As it deteriorates, the disc can tear or be moved out of its natural position between two vertebrae and place pressure on the spinal column. When this happens, the disc has herniated and can cause severe back pain.
Some patients who do not respond to initial treatments may require a discectomy, a surgical procedure to remove the part of the disc in contact with the nerve, usually with good results. Some fusion of vertebrae may also be necessary to prevent additional back pain.