What is a Disc Herniation?
Unlike a disc bulge, a herniated disc happens when the soft “gel” center of the vertebral disc forcibly leaks out through the robust exterior (of the disc). This then creates harmful pressure or chemical irritation on the adjacent nerve roots resulting in possible pain, weakness, or numbness in the arm or leg. Herniated discs most commonly result from age-related degradation of the spinal discs. This is often referred to as disc degeneration. Back injuries due to excessive and or improper lifting of heavy objects can also result in herniated discs.
The following are the common symptoms of disc herniation: pain, numbness, tingling and weakness. If the herniated disc occurs in the lower back, the symptoms can include pain in the back, buttocks, thigh and legs. If the herniation occurs in the neck, then the pain can usually be felt in the neck, shoulders and arm.
Herniated discs can also cause tingling or numbness in the affected body parts. In some cases, muscle weakness can also be a symptom.
Causes and Risks
The most common cause of disc herniation is age related degeneration. As people age, the spinal discs lose their water content. This makes them less flexible, and more prone to cracks or tears. Aside from gradual wear and tear due to aging, other causes of disc herniation may include lifting injuries.
Treatments and Prevention
Treatment for disc herniations can include but is not limited to a combination of physical therapy, ice and heat application, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), oral steroids and epidural steroid injections. These are used to manage the pain, relieve the pressure and discomfort, and provide relief. In severe and emergency cases, surgery and minimally invasive procedures can be options.
Strengthening the core and back muscles as well as keeping an appropriate weight can help to prevent disc herniations.
As pain specialists, Modern Pain and Spine offers pain management services and treatment options for disc herniations.