The spinal disc also referred to as the “intervertebral disc” or “intervertebral fibrocartilage” consists of a soft gelatinous inner core and a thick outer layer. It is sandwiched between two spinal vertebrae and joins the two vertebrae while allowing movement of the spine.
The soft inner core of the spinal disc is referred to as the nucleus pulposus. It distributes pressure in all directions and acts as a shock absorber for the spine, absorbing the impact due to various movements of the spine while you are walking, twisting, bending, or lifting.
When a part or all of the soft gelatinous inner core leaks, bulges, or slips out from the thick outer layer called the annulus fibrosus, it causes spinal disc herniation or slipped disc or bulging disc, or ruptured disc.
Five common signs of a herniated disc
1. Neck Pain
When a herniated disc occurs in the neck, it causes neck pain and pain radiating down the shoulders and arms. Neck pain may be experienced as a dull and achy feeling or sharp acute pain.
2. Low back pain
One of the most common symptoms of a herniated disc is low back pain. Sedentary lifestyle, prolonged periods of inactivity, aging, trauma or injury, poor posture, improper lifting, occupations involving driving, twisting, and bending, obesity can stress the lumbar or the low back region of the spine. This stress results in a herniated disc in the low back also referred to as “lumbar disc herniation”, which is the leading cause of low back pain.
A herniated disc in the lower back or the lumbosacral region of the spine is the leading cause of sciatica pain. Sciatica is manifested as low back pain and radiating pain down the back of the legs. A herniated disc can compress, irritate, or pinch the sciatic nerve or the nerve roots that form the sciatic nerve leading to sciatica pain. Sometimes the symptoms of sciatica also include numbness, tingling, or shock-like sensation and are accompanied by muscle weakness.
Paresthesia is the tingling, burning, or prickling sensation usually felt in the arms or legs. It is the sensation of “pins and needles” usually caused due to compression of the nerve that is responsible for sensory function in the body. A herniated disc may compress, irritate, or inflame the nerves or nerve roots that are responsible for sensory functions leading to the sensation of paresthesia.
5. Cauda equina syndrome
This is a rare but serious medical condition in which there is sudden worsening back pain, loss of bowel and bladder control, sexual dysfunction, and muscle weakness. This condition occurs when the herniated disc in the lower back compresses a bundle of nerves at the base of the spine.
In addition, some patients with a herniated disc may experience no symptoms. A rare symptom associated with a herniated disc is “foot drop”, a condition in which it becomes difficult to lift the front of the foot due to weakness, irritation, or inflammation to the nerve responsible for foot movement of the lower leg.
Treatment of a herniated disc
Conservative non-surgical treatments are recommended for most cases of a herniated disc. Prescription pain medications, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and home care including hot and cold packs are generally the first line of treatment. Steroid injection shots to reduce inflammation and pain are also another treatment option.
Unfortunately, prescription medications have numerous side effects. Prescription medications and steroid injection shots fail to provide long-term pain relief as they do not treat the underlying cause of the pain.
Non-surgical spinal decompression therapy can help the herniated disc to heal naturally. Spinal decompression therapy relieves pressure on the herniated disc by gently stretching the spine. The negative pressure created during the stretch encourages the influx of healing nutrients and oxygen to the herniated disc promoting natural healing. A study published by BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders Journal observed that non-surgical spinal decompression effectively increased the disc height of a herniated disc thereby reducing resulting low back pain and promoting the natural healing of the herniated disc. Surgery is not a recommended treatment for a herniated disc as it has been observed in a study published by the American Pain Society, that the benefits of surgery are moderate and tend to decrease over time.
By reaching out to South Orange Rehabilitation for your consultation, we will review your symptoms and discuss the ideal options to treat your herniated or slipped disc. Contact us today to arrange your consultation.