Spinal disc herniation is an injury to the cushioning and connective tissue between vertebrae, usually caused by excessive strain or trauma to the spine. A herniated disk can cause extreme pain, especially if it presses on the nerves, but sometimes there is no pain at all. Most cases improve slowly with rest, gentle exercise and painkillers.
In a human’s vertebral column, there are normally thirty-three vertebrae; the upper twenty-four are articulating and separated from each other by intervertebral discs, and the lower nine are fused in adults, five in the sacrum and four in the coccyx, or tailbone.
Spinal disc herniation is an injury to the cushioning and connective tissue between vertebrae, usually caused by excessive strain or trauma to the spine. When this happens, the soft contents of the disk leak out through the hard disk wall, causing disc hernias.
Disc herniation is frequently associated with age-related degeneration of the outer ring, but is normally triggered by trauma or straining by lifting or twisting. A tear in the disc ring may result in the release of chemicals causing inflammation, which can result in severe pain even in the absence of nerve root compression.
Disc herniation is normally a further development of a previously existing disc protrusion, in which the outermost layers are still intact, but can bulge when the disc is under pressure.
You can have hernias without feeling it. Typically, symptoms are experienced on one side of the body only. Symptoms of a herniated disc can vary depending on the location of the herniation and the types of soft tissue involved. They can range from little or no pain, if the disc is the only tissue injured, to severe and unrelenting neck pain or low back pain that radiates into regions served by nerve roots that have been irritated or impinged by the herniated material. Often, herniated discs are not diagnosed immediately, as patients present with undefined pains in the thighs, knees, or feet.
Symptoms may include sensory changes such as numbness, tingling, paresthesia, and motor changes such as muscular weakness, paralysis, and affection of reflexes. If the herniated disc is in the lumbar region, the patient may also experience sciatica due to irritation of one of the nerve roots of the sciatic nerve. Unlike a pulsating pain or pain that comes and goes, which can be caused by muscle spasm, pain from a herniated disc is usually continuous or at least continuous in a specific position of the body.
Common symptoms of herniated disc are:
- numbness and tingling in bones
- pain in the neck and back
- pain that radiates into one leg
- pain that radiates into the arm and fingers
- pain that radiates into the chest
- difficulty controlling the movements of the legs.
Prevention and protection
It may not be possible to prevent spinal disc herniation, but you can take steps to reduce your risk of developing the problem.
These steps include:
- Use safe lifting techniques
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Do not remain seated for long periods; get up and stretch periodically.
- Do exercises to strengthen the muscles in your back, legs, and abdomen.
In most cases, spinal disc herniation can be treated successfully conservatively, without surgical removal of the herniated material.
Initial treatment usually consists of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), but long-term use of NSAIDs for people with persistent back pain is complicated by their possible cardiovascular and gastrointestinal toxicity.
Most people can relieve hernia pain using an exercise program that stretches and strengthens the back and surrounding muscles. A physical therapist may recommend exercises that can strengthen your back while reducing your pain.
Surgery may be useful when a herniated disc is causing significant pain radiating into the leg, significant leg weakness, bladder problems, or loss of bowel control.
When to consult a doctor
If you have a severe pain and non-prescription painkillers do not help, you should seek medical help.
Seek urgent care if you have back pain together with:
- numbness, tingling or weakness in the legs or arms
- numbness or decreased sensation around the rectum or genitals
- difficulty controlling and emptying the bladder and bowel.
How APPOTEK can help
Appotek can help you with herniated discs. A doctor will make an initial assessment based on your symptoms, then prescribe treatment or refer you to a specialist, if needed.