What is a Disc Herniation?
A Disc Herniation is a common condition in which the outer ring of a spinal disc becomes torn and the soft inner portion of the disc begins to bulge out. The spinal disc serves the purpose of padding your spine and preventing bone on bone contact. This can cause both an inflammatory reaction and nerve compression, which leads to pinched nerves. Disc herniation can also be known as one of the following:
- Bulging Disc
- Ruptured Disc
- Slipped Disc
- Prolapsed Disc
What Can Cause a Disc to Herniate?
The most common cause for a disc herniation is normal wear and tear. This can be due to the aging process of the body, physical activities which include: walking, running, bending or twisting. Also, any heavy lifting while using improper lifting techniques or any physical contact sports may increase the risk of causing a disc herniation.
Symptoms of a disc herniation vary depending on where in the spine a disc is affected. A herniation can occur anywhere from your lower back (lumbar), middle of the back (thoratic) or up into your neck (cervical). Some individuals do not even notice any pain because the herniation has not reached the point to where it is affecting any surrounding nerves.
Symptoms may include:
- Pain will normally occur on one side of the body.
- Radiating Pain or burning sensations in the neck, shoulder, arm, hands, buttocks, or legs depending on where the affected nerve is.
- Tingling or Numbness.
- Muscle Weakness.
Most physicians will require a physical exam to diagnose a herniated disc. These physical exams may include range of motion and strength tests for your neck or back. A scheduled CT or MRI scan can accurately diagnose the problem.
Non-Surgical Treatment Options
Medications may be used to reduce the inflammation of surrounding tissues that are affecting a nerve. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NIADS), such as Ibuprofen or Aleve can reduce symptoms for a short period.
For a longer lasting pain relief, epidural injections can also be used to reduce inflammation and pain.
Physical Therapy: After consulting and receiving guidance from a physical therapist, a patient can because strengthening back muscles and the spinal column with controlled exercise and stretches to improve flexibility.
Surgical Treatment Options
For many patients, a doctor may recommend surgery as a treatment option. A Discectomy is the most common surgery that is performed to treat disc herniation. A Discectomy involves removing the herniated disc material from the affected disc. By removing this material, the pressure on the affected nerves is reduced, which causes any pain, numbness or tingling to be relieved.
Most discectomies today are performed through minimally invasive procedures. This is also known as Microdiscectomies. Instead of an open back surgery, a small incision is made. The doctor will then use a special microscope and a tube to remove herniated material. Most minimally invasive spinal surgeries will require less healing time which is a big plus, as opposed to open back surgery.
Discectomies are quite successful, more so to the patients with more severe pain and symptoms. Although if you would like quick relief of any pain or symptoms, consult with a doctor to make the decision.