Herniated Disc: Symptoms, Treatment, and More: Could you have a dangerous medical condition and not even know it? In the case of herniated discs, this becomes a real possibility. Of course, you can counter this by making yourself aware of how herniated discs work and what signs they exhibit.
But of course, now you’re left with a different question. Where do you get this information?
Well, we’ve got you covered. With this guide to herniated disc symptoms, treatment, and more, we hope to clear up any airs of mystery surrounding the condition and get you informed! So without further preamble, let’s get right into the thick of it!
What Is a Herniated Disk?
The disks in your body consist of rubber-like shock absorbers that sit in between each bone in your vertebrae. The disk consists of two parts: a soft, gel-like inside (the nucleus) and a protective shell surrounding it (annulus). If the annulus tears, part of the nucleus can start to seep out into the spinal canal.
Once there, the disk soon gets crammed up against nerves in the spine, irritating the nerves and causing sharp pain in your back. While herniated disks can happen anywhere in the spine, they’re more common in the lower back.
The most frequent culprit behind herniated disks is old age. The older you get, the more worn down the annulus becomes. You also lose some range of movement in your spine due to ligament deterioration.
As a result, it only takes a slight sharp movement to risk tearing the annulus and causing a nucleus leak. Herniated disks can also occur due to too much stress getting placed on the back when lifting heavy objects. Obesity and a lack of exercise are also contributing factors.
Herniated Disk Symptoms
One of the major difficulties with detecting a herniated disk is that there is a chance you won’t experience any noticeable symptoms. The only way your body can detect a herniated disk is if the nucleus starts rubbing against a spinal nerve.
The sharp pain we mentioned earlier is one such symptom, tending to appear around the waist, upper legs, and buttocks. In some cases, you will feel pain in your lower legs and feet. Herniated disks that are higher up (like right in your neck) will create this pain in your shoulder and arms instead.
In addition, some people notice a tingling sensation or feeling of numbness in the area affected by the herniated disk. This will also cause muscles near the irritated nerve to lose strength, making tasks like lifting things or running difficult. Any rapid movement will increase the pain felt.
If you don’t notice any symptoms but want to make sure you don’t have a herniated disk, ask your doctor to examine you for one. They’ll start with a physical exam, looking to see the strength and flexibility of your muscles as well as if you are experiencing heightened pain sensitivity anywhere. If they need more information, they can use an x-ray machine or MRI scan to clarify.
Herniated Disk Treatment
So what happens if your doctor finds a herniated disk? In most cases, your doctor will tell you to take anti-inflammatory medication. They will also advise you to stay away from anything more than very light physical activity for several days to give your spine time to heal. Physical therapy of some kind also gets mixed in to help alleviate the injury and ease your muscles.
If your symptoms are more severe or the aforementioned treatments aren’t working, you’ll need to go see a spine surgeon. The surgeon will remove the herniated disk by removing some or all of the lamina to reduce pressure and then extracting the displaced disk. Afterward, your spine gets fused shut to address the gap left by the missing disk.
Some surgeons can also place artificial disks in your spine to replace the one you lose during surgery. However, this procedure requires the herniated disk to reside in a specific area of your spine. In addition, you have to demonstrate a history of trying other treatments for several months with no results.
If you discover you have a herniated disk, it’s better to seek treatment now than wait on it. Leaving it alone can result in increased pain and muscle weakness, as well as numbness around your inner thighs and the back of your legs. Accelerated nerve damage will also make it difficult for you to use the bathroom.
The worst-case scenario is if the entire spine gets compressed due to disk herniation. This is rare but requires immediate emergency surgery to prevent a permanent failure or weakening of your spine and corresponding nerves.
How to Reduce Your Risk of Getting a Herniated Disk
So how do you stay ahead of this condition? For starters, make sure to get lots of exercise and eat healthy to reduce the strain your weight puts on your spine every day. Making sure you don’t slouch and stand straight will also help with this.
Lifting heavy objects with your legs instead of your back is a smart idea too, as your spine and back muscles aren’t built to handle that much strain constantly. You should also put the kibosh on the use of any tobacco products. This is because the chemicals within those products boost the rate at which your spinal disks break down, leading to a heightened chance of herniation.
Finally, try to find ways to stand up and move around if you work a job that requires a lot of sitting down (like working an office job or being a delivery truck driver). While it can feel superfluous, every little bit counts towards preventing future disk herniation.
On Track to Stay Healthy
With this guide to herniated discs symptoms, treatments, and more, you’re now ready to stay ahead of herniated discs and ensure your health stays strong down the road!
But what if you’re looking for more tips on staying healthy and avoiding complications? Well, in that case, stop by our blog and check out more of our articles today!