Schmorl's nodule: symptoms, causes and treatment

The Schmorl nodule, also called a Schmorl hernia, consists of a herniated disc that happens into the vertebra. It is usually found on an MRI scan or spine scan, and is not always a cause for concern because it does not cause pain, in most cases, or any other change.

This type of hernia is more common at the end of the thoracic spine and the beginning of the lumbar spine, as between L5 and S1, being more commonly found in people over 45 years of age, but it is not serious, nor is it indicative of cancer.

Symptoms of Schmorl's Node

The Schmorl nodule can happen in a healthy spine, with no symptoms present, so when a person does a spinal examination for having back pain and finds that nodule, one should keep looking for other changes that are causing the spine pain. , since this nodule does not cause symptoms, it is not serious, nor is it a cause for concern.

However, although it is much less common, when the nodule forms suddenly, as during a traffic accident, for example, it can cause a small local inflammation, causing pain in the spine.

In most cases, the Schmorl nodule does not cause pain and is only discovered through exams. However, when herniation affects a nerve, there may be low back pain, however this situation is rare.

Causes of Schmorl's Node

The causes are not fully known but there are theories that indicate that the Schmorl nodule can be caused by:

  • High impact injuries such as in the event of a motorcycle accident or when a person falls first by hitting their head on the ground,
  • Repetitive trauma, when the person who frequently lifts heavy objects above the head;
  • Degenerative diseases of the vertebral disc;
  • Due to diseases such as osteomalacia, hyperparathyroidism, Paget's disease, infections, cancer or osteoporosis;
  • Reaction of the immune system, which starts to act on the disc, when it is inside a vertebra;
  • Genetic alteration during the formation of vertebrae during pregnancy.

The best exam to see this lump is the MRI scan that also allows you to see if there is swelling around it, which indicates a recent and inflamed lump. When the nodule has formed long ago and there is calcification around it, it is possible that it will be seen on an x-ray, in which case it does not normally cause pain.

Is Schmorl's nodule curable?

Treatment is only necessary when symptoms are present. In this case, one must know what is causing symptoms, such as muscle tension, other types of herniated discs, osteoporosis, osteomalacia, hyperparathyroidism, Paget's disease, infections and cancer, for example. Treatment can be done with analgesics for pain relief, use of anti-inflammatories and physical therapy. When there are other important changes in the spine, the orthopedist can indicate the need and have surgery to fuse two spine vertebrae, for example.