A herniated spine is an injury to your backbone (backbone). There are a series (vertebrae), which run from your skull’s base to your tailbone. There are discs, which are small cushions between the vertebrae. These discs act like a cushion between your bones. They allow you to bend easily and move freely. If one of these discs ruptures or leaks, it is called a herniated disc.
Are herniated discs common?
A herniated disc affects up to 2% of people each year. Herniated discs can cause neck and/or arm pain, back and/or leg pain, and/or sciatica. Herniated discs can occur anywhere along the spine. However, most commonly they are found in the neck and lower back. It is rare for herniated discs to occur in the mid-back.
Who gets herniated discs?
A herniated disc is most common in people between the ages of 30 and 50. The problem occurs twice as frequently in men as it does in women. There are also other risk factors, such as:
- Sitting still for long periods.
- Being overweight.
- Lifting heavy objects.
- Repeated bending and twisting movements for work, hobbies or sports.
Herniated Disc Symptoms
Herniated discs most often occur in the lower back. But, they can also occur in your neck. Signs and symptoms vary depending on the location of the disc, and whether it presses on a nerve. Herniated discs typically affect one side.
Leg pain or arm pain. A herniated disc in the lower back can cause pain. It is possible to feel pain in the lower part of your foot.
You’ll feel the most pain in your arm and shoulder if you have a herniated cervical disc. You might feel the pain in your arm or leg if you cough, sneeze and move into certain positions. Pain can often be described as burning or sharp.
Tingling or numbness. A herniated disc can cause radiating numbness and tingling to the affected nerves.
Weakness. Weakness of the muscles served by affected nerves. This can make you stumble or limit your ability to lift and hold items.
It is possible to have a herniated spinal disc without any symptoms. If it is not visible on a spinal scan, you might not even know that it exists.
Herniated Disc Causes
disc herniation can be caused by a progressive, aging-related wear. The discs become less flexible as we age and are more likely to tear or rupture with even a slight strain.
Most people don’t know what caused their herniated disc. Sometimes lifting heavy objects using your back muscles, rather than your leg or thigh muscles, can cause a herniated distal disc. Twisting and turning while lifting can also lead to this. Rarely is it a traumatic event, such as a fall or a blow on the back that causes the problem.
Herniated Disc Risk Factors
There are several factors that can increase the chance of a herniated disc.
- Weight. An excess body weight puts extra stress on the lower back discs.
- Occupation. People who have physically demanding jobs are at greater risk for back problems. The risk of having a herniated disc may increase if you do repetitive lifting, pulling, pushing or bend sideways or twisting.
- Genetics. Some people inherit a predisposition for developing a herniated distal disc.
- Smoking. Smoking reduces oxygen supply to discs, which causes them to be less efficient and eventually to stop working.
- Frequent driving. Long periods of sitting and the vibration from the motor car engine can place pressure on your spine.
- Being sedentary. Regular exercise can help to prevent a herniated or bulging disc.
Herniated Disc Complications
Your spinal cord ends just above your waist. The spinal canal ends at your waist. This is where you will find a set of long nerve roots that look like a horse’s tail (cauda Equina span>).
In rare cases, disc herniation may compress the entire spinal canal and all the nerves. Emergency surgery might be required in rare cases to avoid paralysis or permanent weakness.
Get emergency medical attention if:
- Worsening symptoms. The symptoms of numbness, weakness, and pain can become so severe that it may interfere with your daily activities.
- Bladder problems or bowel dysfunction. Cauda equina syndrome may cause incontinence, or difficulty urinating with a full bladder.
- Saddle anesthesia. This gradual loss of sensation affects areas that could touch a saddle, such as the inner thighs and back of the legs, and the area surrounding the rectum.
What can I do to avoid a herniated or bulging disc?
A herniated disc can sometimes be prevented, but it’s not always possible. However, you can reduce your chance of getting a herniated disc.
- Use proper lifting techniques. Keep your waist straight. Your back should be straight. Your leg muscles can be used to support the load.
- Healthy weight maintenance is key. Excessive weight places pressure on the lower back.
- Good posture is essential. You can improve your posture as you sit, stand, or walk. Good posture reduces strain on your spine.
- Stretching. If you are sedentary, it is important to take frequent stretching breaks.
- Avoid wearing high-heeled footwear. These shoes will cause your spine to be out of alignment.
- Exercising regularly. For a healthy spine, you should focus on strengthening your abdominal muscles and back.
- Stopping smoking. Smoking can damage discs and make them more susceptible to rupture. Consider quitting smoking.
A herniated disc is treated first with nonsurgical and conservative treatment. The doctor may recommend that the patient maintain a low level of activity for a few days or several weeks. This allows the spinal nerve inflammation to decrease. Not recommended: Bedrest
If the pain is not severe or moderate, nonsteroidal anti inflammatory medication can be used to treat herniated discs. An epidural steroid injection can be done using a spinal needle with X-ray guidance. The medication will be directed to the level of disc herniation.
Physical therapy might be recommended by the doctor. A detailed evaluation by the therapist is performed. This information, together with the doctor’s diagnosis, will dictate a treatment plan that is tailored to patients with herniated spines. Treatments may include gentle massage, pelvic manipulation, ice, heat therapy, ultrasound and electrical muscle stimulation. Physical therapy may also include pain medication or muscle relaxants.
If other options such as medications and physical therapy do not alleviate or eliminate the pain completely, then a doctor may recommend surgery. The best course of action is determined by the doctor discussing surgical options with patients. Like any surgery, patients’ health and age are considered.
Surgery should be carefully weighed against its potential risks. Surgery can provide significant pain relief for patients suffering from herniated discs. However, this is not an assurance that it will work.
A person may be considered for spinal surgery if they are:
- Radicular pain Limits normal activity and impairs quality life
- Progressive neurological impairments, such leg weakness and/or paralysis, can develop.
- Normal bowel and bladder functions
- Standing and walking difficult
- Both physical therapy and medication are ineffective
- The patient’s health is good
Lumbar Spine Surgery
Lumbar laminotomy, also known as lumbar laminotomy, is a procedure that relieves leg pain and sciatica from a herniated or bulging disc. This procedure involves making a small incision along the spine, focusing on the area affected by the herniated disc. This procedure may involve the removal of a small amount of lamina. After cutting through the skin, the surgeon will move the muscles to the side in order to see the back of each vertebrae. The herniated disc is accessed by a small opening between the vertebrae. Stabilization may be required after discectomy. Sometimes, a laminotomy and spinal fusion are combined. Laminectomy can be performed for more complicated cases.
An incision is made through your abdomen to remove the disc and replace it. Only a few patients are eligible for artificial disc surgery. Only one disc must be degenerated in the patient’s spine, either between L4 or L5, or between L5 and S1(the first sacral vertebra). Patients must have had at least six months of treatment such as pain medication, physical therapy, or a back brace. The patient must be in good health, with no signs or symptoms of arthritis, osteoporosis, infection or other conditions. The patient cannot be considered for this procedure if there is significant leg pain or disc degeneration.
Cervical Spine Surgery
The exact location of the herniated disc and the preference of the surgeon will impact the decision about whether the surgery is performed at the front or back of your neck. Laminotomy may be used to remove some of the lamina. The posterior approach will involve removing the disc herniation. A posterior procedure is a surgery that does not require fusion. Stabilization is required for anterior surgery. Instrumentation is achieved by using a cervical plate (or interbody device), and screws (or instruments). A few candidates may choose to have an artificial cervical disc instead of fusion.
How can I relieve herniated distal pain at home?
In most cases, the pain caused by a herniated or bulging disc will disappear over time. While your disc heals you can use these methods to ease the pain.
- If the pain is severe, you can rest for one to three nights. But it is important not to stay in bed for too long to avoid stiffness.
- Take an over-the-counter pain relief such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
- Heat/ice can be applied to the affected area.
What do I need for spinal surgery?
The majority of herniated discs heal themselves over time. However, 9/10 people can get nonsurgical treatment. If you are not able to get relief from your symptoms with other treatment options, your healthcare provider might recommend surgery. There are several surgical options to relieve pressure on the spine and nerves.
- discectomy for removing herniated disc.
- Laser laminectomy to remove some bone from a herniated disc.
- Artificial disc surgery is performed to replace a herniated or damaged disc with an artificial.
- Spinal Fusion is a method of joining two or more vertebrae together, to increase stability in your spine.
What’s the outlook for herniated disc patients?
The majority of herniated disc pain is resolved by themselves or with simple medical attention. Within a month, you’ll feel better. If you still feel the same, see your healthcare provider. Some people may need more serious medical treatments, such spinal injections or surgery.
What if a herniated distal gets worse?
A herniated disc justify untreated can lead to more problems. It’s possible for a herniated disc to get worse if you continue doing the same activities that led to it, such as your job. Chronic (ongoing) pain from a ruptured disc could lead to permanent loss of control and sensation in the affected region. If symptoms persist after conservative treatment, contact your healthcare provider.