Herniated Discs (Slipped Disc)
Sometimes called a slipped or ruptured disc, this condition occurs when your spinal discs are irritated by your spinal column, causing chronic pain. Herniated discs can result from many factors, including aging, occupation, lifestyle, and genetics.
What You Need to Know About Herniated Discs
What is a Herniated Disc?
Vertebral discs cushion the bones in your back. Vertebral discs are flexible, rubbery cushions that support your vertebral bones. These discs are present between every vertebra of the spinal column. They absorb shock in your spine and allow the spine to twist and bend. Everyday movement is more comfortable because of the discs.
Hernias can develop in these discs due to bone degeneration. As you age, your bones often lose their strength and mass. As a result, your spinal canal may shrink. Herniated discs can occur when your spinal nerve canal no longer supports the size of your disc. Therefore the spinal column squeezes against the fragment of the herniated disc and irritates the nerves.
A herniated disc can occur in any part of the 33 bones that make up your spine. When a disc slips out of place, you may feel intense pain, numbness, and even weakness. However, some people who have herniated discs may feel no pain at all.
A spine physician will be able to diagnose your condition. Schedule an appointment with a Resurgens spine physician now.
Types Of Herniated Discs
There are three types of herniated discs that correspond to different areas of the spine.
Lumbar herniated discs occur in the lower back, usually at L4-L5 or L5 to S1. This is the most common type of herniated disc.
Cervical herniated discs occur in the middle of the back, usually at C4-C5.
Thoracic herniated discs occur in the upper back and chest area. This is the least common type of herniated disc.
What Causes A Herniated Disc?
A herniated disc occurs when the nucleus pushes through the outer wall. This herniation can result in a large bulge that can press against nearby nerve roots. Herniated discs commonly result from an age-related weakening of the spinal discs. This is called disc degeneration, and it can occur gradually over many years as a result of normal wear and tear on the spine.
A herniated disc can also result from a traumatic injury, or from lifting a heavy object improperly. When lifting a heavy object, you may put too much strain on your back and cause a slipped disc. Many vocations have a high risk of this condition due to repetitive lifting, pulling, twisting, and pushing.
There are different common causes of this injury depending on the type of herniation you have.
Lumbar disc herniation causes include aging and disc degeneration.
Cervical disc herniation causes include heavy lifting or sudden, unnatural movements.
Thoracic disc herniation causes include degeneration of direct trauma.
Unhealthy lifestyle choices can also contribute. Overweight people often develop herniated discs because they have an overabundance of weight on their spine, forcing it to support more mass than it can handle. Additionally, there is some evidence linking smoking to herniated discs. Smoking decreases your oxygen supply, causing your discs to break down more quickly.
Proper and regular exercise reinforces your spinal trunk. Exercise helps strengthen your spinal support. Even things as simple as maintaining good posture can reduce your chances of developing a herniated disc. Good posture lessens the overall force on your body and minimizes weight on your discs and spine.
Some people may also develop herniated discs as a result of their genetic predisposition. There are many causes of herniated discs, but only a doctor can help you with your condition.
Book an appointment now to speak with an expert at the Resurgens Spine Center.
Herniated Disc Symptoms
Some herniated discs cause no symptoms, and a person with this type of injury may not realize the disc is damaged. But a herniated disc can also cause severe pain, numbness or tingling, and weakness. Symptoms of a herniated disc vary depending on the disc's location and the rupture's severity. Lumbar herniated disc symptoms, cervical herniated disc symptoms, and thoracic herniated disc symptoms often radiate pain to other parts of the body, like the neck, arms, legs, or hips.
Most herniated discs occur in the lower back or lumbar, where they can cause symptoms in the buttocks, legs, and feet. Signs of herniated discs can also occur in the neck, where they can cause symptoms in the shoulders, arms, and hands. A long history of back pain or recent episodes of pain can be warning signs for herniated discs.
If you are experiencing a herniated disc, you may feel these symptoms:
Pain in your lower back: a herniated disc can put pressure on your sciatic nerve. The pressure causes numbness, tingling, and burning. Patients often describe it as feeling a jolt of electricity down one side of their body.
Pain in your neck: nerve compression in your cervical spine can make it difficult to move. You may feel a pain that radiates down the arm to your fingers or dull or knife-like pain between your shoulder blades.
Arm or leg pain: If your herniated disc is in your neck, you may feel pain in your calf, thigh, buttocks, arms, and even feet. A simple sudden movement like coughing or sneezing can exacerbate your symptoms
Difficulty with simple things: your muscles may weaken due to your slipped disc. Weak muscles may make it difficult for you to walk or complete everyday tasks. You may feel better after rest, and worse during intense activity.
A herniated disc is a complicated injury, and these are not all the symptoms of a herniated disc. Only a qualified physician can diagnose your symptoms.
How is a Herniated Disc Diagnosed?
Diagnosing your condition is a crucial part of recovery. No two patients have the same type of spinal disc damage. Consequently, your doctor will need to conduct a thorough diagnosis to create a treatment plan customized to promote your healing.
Your doctor will usually start with a physical exam. A thorough diagnosis helps locate the source of your pain. They will evaluate your nerves, reflexes, walking ability, sense of touch, and muscle strength. Depending on your condition, you may need further diagnosis to confirm your diagnosis and determine which nerves are affected.
Since a herniated disc is a complicated injury, your doctor may use specific technology to diagnose your condition. These may include diagnostic testing like CT Scans, MRIs, and nerve conduction studies.
Herniated Disc Treatment Options
Herniated disc treatment depends on the location and severity of the injury. At Resurgens, we offer a variety of treatment options for herniated discs. Including injections, physical therapy, non-surgical, minimally-invasive spine surgery.
Many types of herniated discs actually resolve themselves. Cervical herniated disc treatment, lumbar herniated disc treatment, and thoracic herniated disc treatment include pain-relieving medications, muscle relaxers, and corticosteroid injections.
Your doctor may recommend physical therapy or other rehabilitation services to help with your symptoms. For some people, these treatments can improve their condition. However, if these methods are insufficient, you may require surgical intervention.
Patients with severe conditions may need surgical treatment. Your doctor will not recommend surgery unless they determine conservative options aren't working for you. Resurgens offers a variety of procedures to treat slipped discs.
We use minimally-invasive procedures like lumbar disc microsurgery or selective endoscopic discectomy for lumbar injuries. For cervical injuries, we may recommend anterior cervical discectomy spine fusion (ACDF) surgery or posterior cervical discectomy. Upper back injuries may require a minimally invasive VATS (Video Assisted Thoracic Surgery).
Many patients can leave the hospital the same day they receive the treatment and can resume regular activity within one to six weeks.
Only a qualified physician can determine your treatment options. Learn more about the Spine Center at Resurgens Orthopaedics.