A herniated disc is an injury to the discs of the spine. The spine consists of many discs that are jelly-like between vertebrae. They act as shock absorbers. When they are injured, the disc becomes thinner and pushes on nerves causing pain. The medical term, “herniated” or “ruptured” means that the outside of the disc is pushing against another structure.
What are the symptoms of a herniated disc?
A herniated disc is when the inner material of one of the discs in your spine pushes through a weak spot in the outer material, which is called an annulus. This causes compression on nearby nerves. Symptoms typically include pain radiating down one leg, numbness or tingling in the legs and feet, and difficulty walking. Disc herniations are most common in the lower back (lumbar spine) and, less often, the neck (cervical spine). A small percentage of disc herniations occur in the mid-back (thoracic spine).
What causes a herniated discs?
A herniated disc is a result of a tear or breakdown of the outer layer of an intervertebral disc. The tear allows the inner material to leak out and compress nerve roots. In simple terms, a herniated disc occurs when pressure from inside the discs push or squeeze on a nerve with inflammation and or compression. This
can occur as a result of trauma, sudden back movements, age, or poor posture. Most often it occurs when there has been a gradual weakening of the disc over time. The weakening occurs because the discs contain mostly water, which can evaporate over time. This is similar to what happens when a potted plant dries out and dies.
What treatments are available for a herniated disc?
Herniated discs are more often treated with conservative treatments rather than surgery. This often includes physical therapy, medications, and injections. These treatments can help reduce pain and inflammation to relieve some of the pressure on the nerve roots. Surgery is an option if conservative methods do not work. Surgery can be complicated, but it can provide significant relief depending on the severity of the disc herniation.
A patient with a herniated disc could be treated with medication. The first line of treatment for a herniated disc is typically acetaminophen, which is an over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug known as Tylenol. Stronger NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, may also be used for a shorter period of time to reduce inflammation and pain.
Physical therapy is often recommended for a herniated disc treatment. The goal of physical therapy is to help a patient recover from a herniated disc. The point is to help with the symptoms of chronic pain and weakness, as well as addressing the root cause of the problem (herniated disc). There are many different types of exercise that can be performed during PT treatment; some may include range-of-motion exercises, flexion and extension exercises, and strengthening exercises.
A herniated disc may need surgery if the patient is experiencing with red flag that is patient can’t walk on toe or heel, fail to hold urine and a lot of pain and damage to the nerve with progressive muscle weakness. It may also need to be removed if it has caused an infection.
How can you prevent a herniated disc?
A herniated disc can be prevented by maintaining an ideal weight, not smoking, and avoiding excessive physical activity. It is also important to maintain a healthy diet, using caution when lifting heavy objects, keeping the spine in the neutral position, not sitting for prolonged periods of time, and performing exercises that are designed to strengthen the muscles surrounding the spine.
Ultimately, a herniated disc may be the result of repetitive strain on your spine, such as overuse or misuse. Symptoms can include pain and numbness in the affected area and can be treated with physical therapy and medication.
To avoid a herniated disc, try to take frequent breaks and avoid strenuous activities. If you do start to experience symptoms, get them checked out by a doctor to get the right treatment.