This article is part of a series written by Dr. Kevin Pauza
Common Signs and Symptoms of Herniated Discs
Although most herniated discs are found in the lower back, known as the lumbar section, it is possible to have a herniated disc in your neck, where the cervical spine is located. The most common signs and symptoms of a herniated disc include the following.
Arm and leg pain. With a herniated disc in your lower back, you’ll typically feel the most intense pain in your buttocks, thigh, and calf. In some cases, pain in the foot will also be present. When an individual has a herniated disc in the cervical section of the spine, the pain will be most intense in the shoulders and arms. Coughing, sneezing or moving your spine into certain positions may further exacerbate the pain, causing it to shoot down your arms and legs.
Tingling or numbness. Often, sufferers of a herniated disc will experience symptoms of numbness or tingling in parts of the body where the leaking inner disc gel, known as the nucleus pulposus, is causing irritation and inflammation of related spinal nerves.
Weakness and muscle fatigue. The muscles served by the affected nerves tend to weaken from the irritation and inflammation. This may impair your ability to lift or hold items. Symptoms will also often cause the herniated disc sufferer to stumble or falter when walking.
Though it is not often the case, an individual can suffer from a herniated disc without knowing it. This could be due to minor herniation or a lack of irritation of the spinal nerves. This type of herniation may only be found with X-ray images of the cervical or lumbar spine regions.
Treating Herniated Discs
There are several treatment options for herniated discs. The most common or traditional solutions include the following.
- Medication ranging from simple over the counter pain medication to high dose narcotics. This can lead to dependence and even addiction, a difference in one’s mental state, and other related medical complications.
- Cortisone/steroid injections. This is the injecting of a corticosteroid or epidural directly into the area of the spine where the herniated disc inner gel is leaking and the surrounding spinal nerves. The hope is to remove the swelling and inflammation long enough for the disc to heal. Unfortunately for most, this only provides temporary relief.
- Chiropractic therapy. Spinal manipulation has been found to only be moderately effective on lower or lumbar back pain.
More aggressive surgical options have been known to be effective in severe cases of herniation. These should only be considered after conservative treatments have failed to improve your symptoms.
- Discectomy. This is a procedure where a surgeon puts the patient under anesthesia then removes the protruding portion of the disc. Overall it does weaken the disc, however, it is a brief respite to the pain. Some patients go years without the return of pain after undergoing this procedure, but it is not a cure.
- Spinal Fusion. In extremely rare cases the herniated vertebrae disc may need to be completely removed. This is usually necessary if the vertebrae above and below the herniated disc are fused together with metal hardware to provide the required spinal stability. This method reduces significantly reduces the spine’s ability to move.
Non-invasive options for treating a herniated disc are limited because dealing with herniated discs is complex. Any comprehensive procedure needs to restore a significant portion of the original disc height while repairing the annular tear that is causing the nucleus pulposus gel to leak.
The most successful results for non-invasive treatments have been found in the use of biologics. It is important to understand that not all biologic procedures are the same or have been shown to have the same results.
- Stem cells with growth factor proteins. Stem cells are primarily harvested from one of two sources: bone marrow, or umbilical cord blood capture. If the cells are from umbilical cord blood, there is a high probability that the stem cells themselves have died as a result of the process. Bone marrow stem cells are the result of using a bone marrow aspiration needle that extracts the cells from the bone. In both cases, the stem cells are separated or concentrated in a centrifuge and injected into the damaged disc. The goal is that growth factor proteins will repair the tear before the newly injected stem cells leak out of the herniated disc.
- Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP). This procedure extracts blood from the patient in question via regular venipuncture. The platelets are then isolated, concentrated, and injected into the injured area. This non-surgical regenerative medicine is used to treat muscle strains and tears and is often used in combination with other therapies to aid in the healing process.
The Discseel® Procedure
In addition to the treatment options discussed, the Discseel® Procedure is an option that is not only able to address annular tears by sealing them and preventing further leaking, but it also allows spinal discs to heal themselves naturally.
Using an FDA-approved fibrin biologic that restores spinal discs by sealing existing tears and instigating regrowth of torn tissue, the Discseel® Procedure is able to repair spinal discs, eliminating pain, and providing lasting results.
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