How a Herniated Disc Develops and What You Can Do About It
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How a Herniated Disc Develops and What You Can Do About It

By Dr. Alok Sharan
|
Jul. 28, 2022
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When a herniated disc occurs, one of the cushions (discs) between the vertebrae (bones) of your spine swells. Here are the basic facts:

  • The nucleus of a spinal disc is soft and jellylike, and it is surrounded by a tough rubbery outside material.
  • An “annular tear” results in a herniated disc, also called a ruptured disc or slipped disc.
  • Lower-back herniated discs, which can occur anywhere on the spine, are the most common.
  • An arm or leg can become numb, painful, or weak due to a herniated disc depending on where it lies.

However, many people don’t experience any symptoms from a herniated disc, and it’s common for people who do have symptoms to experience improvement over time. To relieve the problem, surgery usually isn’t necessary.

Despite those great odds, you just might be in dire need of herniated disc outpatient surgery.

Inflamed, Protruding, or Herniated Disc and Spine

Conservative treatment may be recommended first if a herniated disc causes degenerative issues. People with this condition need to modify their daily activities to avoid movement that causes pain, and they should also take medication to relieve the pain.

NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and muscle relaxers are frequently prescribed by doctors to treat mild to moderate pain. X-rays could also be used to direct medication to the site of the herniated disc through an epidural steroid injection. Physical therapy may also be recommended by the doctor.

It’s possible your doctor will recommend surgery to remove the protruding area of the disc if more conservative measures aren’t successful. To prevent friction, your doctor may recommend removing the entire disc and fusing the vertebrae together through a non-invasive herniated disc surgery. Occasionally, spinal problems resolve on their own without medical intervention.

Back and degenerative problems, however, should sometimes be treated by a doctor, especially if the following are being experienced:

  • Loss of feeling in your legs, or stimulated and tingly sensations.
  • Dysfunctional bladder or bowel movements.
  • Difficulty moving or walking.
  • Relentless pain in your back, as well as back pain happening simultaneously with degenerative symptoms and issues.

Indications and Symptoms

Lower-back herniated discs are the most common, but herniations can also occur in the neck. Discs that press on nerves can cause symptoms depending on where they are located. The body usually only suffers on one side from herniated discs. Take note:

  • Pain in your arms or legs: You’ll typically feel pain in your buttocks, thigh, and calf if the herniated disc is in your lower back. Additionally, you might experience foot pain.
  • Neck disc herniation: You will typically feel the most pain in your shoulder and arm if you have a herniated disc in your neck. Coughing, sneezing, or moving into certain positions might trigger this pain. A sharp or burning pain is often described by many patients.
  • A feeling of numbness or tingling: Nerves that are affected by a herniated disc may radiate numbness or tingling.
  • Lack of strength: As a result of nerve damage, muscles are at risk of weakening. Your ability to lift and hold items may be impacted.

Herniated discs do not always cause symptoms. It may not be apparent until a spinal image shows it. If you experience neck or back pain traveling down your arm or leg, or if you experience numbness, tingling, or weakness, you should seek medical attention.

Reasons Behind Herniation

Disc herniation is most often caused by gradual, aging-related wear and tear called disc degeneration. Even a minor strain or twist can cause the discs to rupture as people age.

It is difficult for most people to point out what’s causing herniated discs. Herniated discs can result from using back muscles to lift heavy objects instead of leg and thigh muscles, as well as twisting and turning while lifting. A fall or blow to the back are rarely the cause of a traumatic herniation event, but it’s still possible.

Factors Increasing Your Risk

Herniated discs can be caused by a number of factors, including:

  • Weight: The lower back discs are stressed by extra body weight.
  • Your job or work routine: Back problems are more common in people with physically demanding jobs. It’s possible to develop a herniated disc if you lift, pull, push, bend sideways, or twist repeatedly.
  • The genetic factor: There’s a genetic predisposition to developing a herniated disc in some individuals.
  • Tobacco use/smoking: Smoking reduces oxygen supply to discs, resulting in faster wear and tear.
  • Excessive driving on the road: A person’s spine can be compressed by sitting for long periods of time and being exposed to vibrations.
  • Sedentary behavior: Herniated discs can be caused by sitting too much, in general. This can be prevented with regular exercise, moving and walking, or investing in an ergonomic stand-up desk.

Complications and Snags

Consider this: The spinal cord ends just above the waist, and there are a number of long nerve roots (cauda equina) that continue through the spinal canal.

These nerves can also be compressed by a disc herniation in rare cases. Paralysis or permanent weakness may require emergency surgery. Seek emergency medical attention if you have:

  • Symptoms that are getting worse (your daily activities may be interrupted by pain, weakness, or numbness).
  • Trouble with your bladder or bowels (full bladder can cause incontinence caused by cauda equina syndrome).
  • “Saddle anesthesia,” wherein the inner thighs, back of the legs, and around your rectum there is progressive loss of sensation in areas that would contact a riding saddle.

Preventative Measures

Follow these steps to prevent a herniated disc:

  • Exercise regularly. Stabilizing and supporting the spine is achieved by strengthening the trunk muscles.
  • Take care of your posture. As a result, your spine and discs are less pressured. Maintain a straight back while sitting for extended periods of time. Lift heavy objects properly, and make your legs do most of the work, not your back.
  • Keep your weight in check. Herniation is more likely to occur when the spine and discs undergo excessive pressure.
  • Put an end to smoking. Tobacco products should be avoided.

Reach out to Awake Spinal Fusion for more information or questions about outpatient herniated disc surgery and treatments.