Did you know that discs cushion your bones or vertebrae that shape the spine? Discs are circular structures that act like tiny pillows, with an external and robust layer surrounding the nucleus. It is positioned between each vertebra in the spinal cord, and the disc is a shock absorber for your vertebral bones. So, when does this disc get herniated? A herniated disc also referred to as swollen, glided, or broken disc is a fragment of the disc nucleus displaced from the annulus into the spinal cord via a rip or rupture in the annulus. So, herniated discs are generally in the primary stages of degeneration.
Your spinal canal has restricted space, which is inappropriate for the spinal nerve and displaced herniated disc. This displacement bothers the spinal nerves, usually triggering pain that might become intense.
The problem can occur in any part of your spinal cord. like in your upper spine among your shoulder blades can be due to rhomboid spasms injury and it may intensify as you move or inhale However, it is more common in the lower backbone or lumbar spine and can impact the neck or cervical spine. So, your painful region depends on which part of the spine is problematic.
What are the Causes?
A sole strain or injury may cause a herniated disc. Though disc material degenerates naturally as you age, and the tendons that grip it to the place start to weaken. A comparatively minor strain or twist can rupture the disc as this degeneration develops.
What are the Symptoms?
Symptoms of this condition may vary significantly, depending on the position of the displaced disc and herniation intensity. However, if the problematic disc is not pressing your spinal nerves, you may experience mild backache or no pain. On the contrary, if it is bothering your nerve, you may experience pain, shock, or weakness in that particular body region. Usually, the bulged disc is preceded by low backache or prolonged history of uneven episodes of low backbone pain.
Lower Backbone Problems
Sciatica frequently emerges due to disc herniation in your lower spine. Therefore, pressurized nerves can cause sciatica pain, burning or tingling, and numbness. This feeling radiates from the buttock into the leg and may even travel to the foot. This sharp and shock-like pain may worsen when you stand up, walk, sit or change position. You will find difficulty in flattening your leg and experience lower dorsalgia (spinal pain).
Sometimes this displaced vertebral disc may compress your nerves in the neck. So, you may experience dull or intense pain in the neck, shoulder blades, and pain that travels down the arm to your palm or fingers. You may also feel a numbness or tingling sensation in the shoulder or arm. The pain worsens as you shift positions or move your neck.
When to Seek Medical Care?
Luckily, most of the time, this condition does not require surgical treatment. However, if you suffer from sciatica pain, you should rest, and it will improve within a couple of days or weeks.
What is the General Advice?
You should restrict your activities to two or three days. If you walk, do it below your tolerance level.
Primary care assessment during this period might guide non-surgical treatments like physiotherapy.
Experts don’t recommend imaging tests like MRI unless your symptoms remain for six weeks.
You should consult a spine specialist or neurosurgeon if symptoms remain for more than a month.
Your consultant may recommend imaging tests to urgently evaluate your signs of significant leg or arm weakness, loss of sensation in the genital region, no bladder control, a history of metastatic cancer, primary infection or fever, fall, injury, or radiculopathy.
What is the Treatment?
There are two types of treatment for this problem:
The primary treatment is typically conformist or non-surgical. Your doctor may advise you to continue with low and effortless activities for some days or several weeks. It will help improve spinal nerve inflammation. However, experts don’t recommend bed rest in this condition.
Usually, this disc problem is treated with NSAIDs if you experience mild to moderate pain. Your doctor may give you an epidural steroid injection by utilizing a spinal needle under the x-ray direction to move the medication to the exact point of the disc herniation.
Also, your consultant may recommend physiotherapy. For that, you may have to visit a physiotherapist who will perform a detailed analysis and review the doctor’s diagnosis to formulate a personalized treatment for you. The most common therapies may include pelvic traction, mild massaging, ice and heat therapy, ultrasound examination, electrical muscle stimulus, and stretching workouts. They may also recommend pain medications and muscle relaxants along with physical therapy.
Your physician may recommend surgery if the conformist treatments (like physiotherapy and pain medications) are ineffective. Your doctor might discuss surgical options with you to determine the apt procedure. The reason is that before deciding the surgery mechanism, your age, underlying health condition, and other factors play a significant role in success.
However, you can evaluate the surgery's benefits against its risks. Though many patients suffering from disc herniation report significant pain relief after surgery, there is no guarantee that surgery will be effective.
Why Would You Need a Spinal Surgery?
You may require a spinal surgery if:
Radicular pain confines standard activity or damages quality of life
You experience significant neurological deficits like dead leg (feebleness or numbness)
You suffer from loss of sensation of bowel or bladder movements
Problem standing or walking
Pain medication or physiotherapy does not improve your condition
You are in overall good health
Your surgeon will provide you with particular instructions after you undergo surgery. The surgeon usually prescribes pain medications. Also, the doctor can determine when you can resume your routine activities like returning to your job, driving your vehicle, or exercising. However, a few patients may benefit from rehab facilities or physiotherapy after the surgical treatment. You might experience slight discomfort when you gradually return to normal activities, but the pain is a warning sign that you need to keep a slow pace.