You might think of the spine as a single part of the skeleton, but it is actually a complex structure made up of many smaller bones called vertebrae, which are separated by soft, flexible discs. These discs are tough and rubbery and they allow the spine to bend and move more freely while absorbing much of the impact of daily activities. Herniated discs, also called slipped or ruptured discs, can be problematic to the health of the spine because they will compress spinal nerves and potentially cause further damage to the already weakened area. Unfortunately, herniated discs are fairly common but you do not have to live with the pain and discomfort they are known to cause.
What Is a Herniated Disc?
A herniated disc occurs when the jelly-like center of the disc protrudes outward from the nucleus, causing the outer edge of the disc to slide back into the spinal canal toward incredibly sensitive spinal nerves. Herniated discs are most common in the cervical and lumbar areas of the spine or the neck and lower back.
Which Symptoms Are Likely Associated with Herniated Discs?
Severe, sharp pain that gets better when lying down or bending over can be indicative of a herniated disc, but the pain is usually not the only symptom. Because herniated discs tend to occur in the upper and lower sections of the spine and put pressure on the nerves in those areas, symptoms of weakness, tingling, or numbness in the extremities are likely to occur as well. You may also have shooting pain that travels down the arm or leg.
What Causes Herniated Discs?
Herniated discs are caused by weakness in the structure of the disc, which tends to occur in the aging process as the discs lose moisture and become more brittle. Other conditions can accelerate damage to the spinal discs, such as smoking, obesity, repetitive movements, high-stress occupations requiring heavy lifting, improper lifting techniques, and traumatic injuries.
How Can You Treat a Herniated Disc?
Though the pain from a herniated disc can be severe and impactful, conservative treatment is often enough to provide relief, especially when symptoms are addressed early. Using hot and cold therapy, massage, muscle relaxers, and physical therapy can be effective for managing pain and restoring mobility. When these treatments are not enough, it may be necessary to undergo minimally-invasive spinal decompression surgery.
Under the care of Dr. Anthony Owusu at Next Generation Orthopedic and Spine Institute, you can confirm a herniated disc diagnosis and find solutions for your pain with surgery, medication, or other effective treatment options tailored to your specific needs.
When to See a Doctor
You should see a doctor for pain that does not improve with rest and over-the-counter pain medication, or when the pain is particularly severe and unlike anything you’ve felt before.
Contact Us to Find Relief Today
For further inquiries, please give us a call or leave us a message.