Disc herniation, also called slipped disc or ruptured disc, happens when a disc located between vertebrae in the spinal column is displaced.
It is one of the most common reasons for persistent pain in the lower back and leg region for adults. Disc herniation therapy is recommended for patients with this condition.
The discs mentioned here are the rubbery materials separating each vertebra. They act as shock absorbers when the spine is flexed, bent, or twisted. These discs have a soft, jellylike center called the nucleus which is surrounded by a rubbery exterior called the annulus.
Disc herniation occurs when parts of the nucleus seeps or pushes out of the annulus through a tear or a crack. This can happen in any part of the spinal column. When the herniation comes in contact with and irritates the nearby nerve, it can result in weakness, numbness, or pain radiating to the arm or leg.
Although most herniated discs occur in the lower back, they can still happen elsewhere in the spine up to the neck. The symptoms depend on where the disc is located and whether the herniation is affecting or pressing on a nearby nerve.
The following may serve as indications where the herniated disc is situated:
Pain, weakness, or numbness in the leg region, including the thigh, calf, buttocks, and, in some cases, even in the feet usually means that the herniated disc is located in the lower back or in the lumbar region.
Symptoms in the shoulders, arms, and hands generally point to a herniated disc near or on the neck area.
The numbness or tingling radiates to the extremities from the affected nerves in the spine. Additionally, weakness can also manifest in the muscles that are served by the affected nerves. These symptoms can cause a person to lose their balance from time to time and find it difficult to hold or lift objects.
Sometimes, an affected individual can have herniated discs without feeling any of the symptoms. In these cases, the only way to confirm is through imaging scans.
There are two major potential causes of disc herniation.
As people age, disc degeneration naturally occurs. Spinal discs lose their fluids and microscopic cracks and tears gradually begin to form along the outer surface, which can eventually lead to herniation.
This process can be likened to a car tire where the radial fibers get tiny tears from usage. As the tears get larger over time, the air inside escapes until such time as the tire is rendered unusable.
Trauma is another leading cause of disc herniation. When the spinal discs are naturally weakened by disc degeneration, additional intense stress can push them over the edge. This can happen when a person tries to lift something heavy using their back instead of their leg and thigh muscles.
A sudden twist or flex can also shock the discs enough to rupture. Other high-impact traumas such as a fall or an accident can lead to herniated discs in the spinal column as well.
Obesity also increases the risk of disc herniation because of the additional stress weight contributes.
Once the doctor determines from the symptoms that the problem may be disc herniation, they will conduct a physical examination to identify the extent of the issue. The exam may include the following:
A neurological exam is done to check the muscle strength in the leg or arm, to detect whether there is loss of sensation, and to test the reflexes in the affected areas.
For disc herniation in the lower back, a straight leg raise or SLR test is done to confirm disc herniation for patients under 35.
Imaging scans may also be conducted for a clearer view of the issue.
MRI is used to see the body’s soft tissues, which include the spinal discs. It can also determine whether spinal nerves are affected.
There are both non-surgical and surgical options for treating herniated discs. Doctors often recommend the following:
Rest – Doctors may suggest maintaining a low level of physical activity from a few days to several weeks as the inflammation decreases naturally.
Medication – Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication may also be recommended to help reduce swelling and pain.
Injection – Doctors may also recommend an epidural steroid injection straight into the exact location of the disc herniation in the spine. This procedure is guided by x-ray.
Surgery – If more conservative treatment options do not offer relief, doctors may offer surgical options that can relieve pressure, remove or replace the herniated disc, or permanently fuse two vertebrae together.
That said, there is no guarantee that these traditional treatment options will work. In fact, they have been found to work only 45% of the time. This is because their objective is just to relieve the pain and not address the underlying cause.
Our treatment options are different. They are designed to get to the bottom of the pain source and develop lasting relief.
Heat and cold therapy alters the circulation which effectively relieves pain. Cold therapy reduces inflammation while heat therapy relaxes the muscles and boosts the healing process within damaged tissues.
This option uses mechanical vibrations to penetrate deep into the muscle tissue, improving the lactic acid cycle which is likely causing pain. It also improves overall circulation in the area, increases lymphatic flow, and promotes tissue regeneration.
Through a series of curated exercises, pain and the symptoms are migrated into the middle line of the body where it is addressed until completely eliminated. This method can reduce pain immediately while enhancing function in the long-term.
In order to know which treatment option is best for you, get into an easy 15-min call with our Dr. Andrew Gorecki. In the last 15 years, he has been helping patients find lasting relief from their persistent pains through his very own “Superior Method.”
Find out more about this method and the more effective treatment options we offer during your free consultation. Call 231.944.6541 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to get lasting relief from your herniated disc.