Web Producer: Brad Maglinger
If you have a pain in your back, you're not alone. Millions are in pain, in fact, it's the leading cause of lost work time. Your pain might come from a bulging or herniated disk, which usually requires surgery. But there is an alternative out there. It's called nucleoplasty.
Nucleoplasty is a minimally invasive procedure using an x-ray guided needle and a tiny radio antenna to shrink the bulging disk. When a spinal disk between vertebrae bulges, it presses on nerves coming from the spinal cord, causing pain.
Doctors carefully insert a the needle into the disk. At the tip of the needle is a tiny radio antenna that emits radio frequency energy. As the probe is advanced into the disk, the radio waves break up the disk material, disintegrating the jelly-like center of the disk. When the needle is withdrawn, the disk contracts, shrinking away from where it was pressing on the nerve, relieving the pain.
"They don't have to stay in the hospital," says Dr. Brian Cole. "They're walking around and can resume their life fairly quickly."
The right candidate for this nucleoplasty is someone with back pain that's confirmed to be coming from a simple bulging disk.