What is a herniated disc?
A herniated disc is a soft area between the bones of the spine pressing on the nerves surrounding the backbone. Herniate (pronounced her-nee’ate) is a contraction of the word herniate, which means to bulge out. This problem can sometimes be called a ruptured disc.
Most herniated discs occur in the lumbar spine, which is the area of your backbone that lies between your hips and the bottom of your bones. Discs are the soft “cushions”, between the bones in the spine. Your spine supports your body. Your spinal cord and nerves are protected by the spine. You can move your backbone with the discs in your spine.
What causes a herniated disc?
The discs are soft and gel-like with a thick outer layer. It is similar to a jelly doughnut. The outer layer can crack over time as it weakens. When the “jelly” substance within the disc pushes through the crack, it is called a herniated disc. The leaked material could press on spinal nerves nearby.
A number of factors can lead to a ruptured disc.
- Excessive weight.
- Repetitive motions.
- Sudden strain due to improper lifting or twisting
What are the signs of a herniated disc?
The symptoms of herniated discs can vary depending on the location of the problem in your spine. Movement can make symptoms worse, but they improve with rest.
Back herniated/slipped disc (herniated Lumbar disc)
A herniated disc in the lower back can cause “sciatic nerve pain”. The sharp pain radiates from your buttocks to your foot and legs, sometimes into your leg. A herniated disc in your lower back can also cause symptoms such as:
- Pain in the back
- Tingling in the feet and legs.
- Muscle weakness
Herniated cervical disc (herniated cervical disc)
A herniated disc in your neck can cause symptoms such as:
- You may feel pain between or near your shoulder blades.
- The pain travels to your arm, shoulder, and sometimes even your hands and fingers.
- Neck pain, particularly in the back and sides of the neck.
- It is a pain that occurs when you bend or turn your neck.
- Tingling or numbness in your arms
How can my doctor tell if I have a herniated disc?
After answering your questions and performing an examination, your doctor might take x-rays or other images to determine if you have a herniated disc.
What can you do to relieve the pain caused by a herniated disc?
Your doctor might recommend medication to relieve the pain. After taking the pain medication for two days, you will likely be more active. Being active can help you feel better quicker. Your doctor might recommend that you stay in bed for a few days if your pain is severe. Your doctor might give you a shot at your backbone if the pain medication does not work. This could stop your pain. Sometimes you may need multiple shots. Sometimes, stretching the spine by a chiropractor or your family doctor can relieve the pain.
Exercises can help with pain
Yes, exercise can be beneficial. Start by stretching. Start by stretching your back. Next, bend forward and then to the side. These exercises can be started when your back is stronger and doesn’t hurt as much. This exercise is designed to strengthen your stomach muscles and back. This will reduce pressure on your discs and help you feel less pain. Ask your doctor for back exercises. To learn more about safe back exercises, your doctor might recommend that you see a physical therapist.
How about my posture?
Your back health can be improved by having a good posture (standing straight, sitting straight and lifting your back straight). When lifting something, bend your knees and hips. Keep your back straight. When you are carrying an object, keep it close to your body. For those who stand for long periods of time, one foot should be on a small stool. Sitting for long periods of time requires you to place your feet on a small stool or box so that your knees are higher then your hips. High-heeled shoes are not recommended. Don’t sleep on your stomach. These activities can place more pressure on your discs. Picture 3 shows good posture when lifting, standing, or sitting.
How do you treat a bulge in the disc or herniated discs?
The vast majority of patients will first need to determine what is causing the disc bulge/herniated disc. As mentioned above, most people will experience repeated forward bending of their spine. This could be due to poor movement patterns, postural or occupational, as well as exercise-related. Once you have been identified, eliminate or minimize any forward-bending activities.
This is particularly important for mornings, as disc pressure is higher in the spine the first hour after you wake up. You are at greater risk of disc bulge, disc slippage, or disc herniation. For a lumbar disc herniation (lumbar disc herniation), be cautious with intense exercise in the morning to avoid aggravating the problem. This could lead to severe pain.
Here are some tips to help you treat disc bulges:
- It can be helpful to walk slowly and gently. Moving can reduce pain signals and help maintain proper lumbar disc function.
- Avoid forward bending your lower back in the morning. Avoid bending forward when getting out of bed. Instead, try to move on your side.
- Ice is the best treatment for acute herniated discs. Most people prefer heat after that point.
- Avoid intense stretching or exercises during pain relief, especially in the acute stage.
- Talk to a doctor of chiropractic who is well-versed in treating disc injuries. Chiropractic adjustments can provide pain relief and help prevent future lumbar disc problems.
What are the prospects for those with herniated discs?
Herniated disc pain can be treated with simple medical treatment or on its own for up to 90% of patients. Within a few days, you’ll feel much better. If you feel worse, your healthcare provider should be consulted. Some people require more severe medical treatment, such as surgery or spinal injections.
Is a herniated disc going to get worse?
Untreated herniated discs can become more severe. This is especially true if the herniated disc continues to grow, such as if it was caused by your work. An ongoing or chronic ruptured disc can cause pain, control loss, or sensation loss in the affected area. If you have not been treated for symptoms within four to six weeks, consult your healthcare provider.