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The spinal cord of our body is one of the most delicate parts of our body and it requires a lot of care. Small injuries and sudden jerks can cause severe problems that can lead to ailments which require surgery or invasive methods to cure.
Unfortunately, bad posture and bad lifestyle can have adverse effects on your spine. Moreover, degeneration of your spine, bones, and discs result in the lower back as well as neck problems. These problems are more pronounced in over-weight people because the pressure on the spine is even more. Today the topic of discussion is a herniated disc. In this article by Pillars of wellness, you will be briefed about everything you need to know regarding a herniated disc.
What is a herniated disc?
According to the spine health blog herniated disc goes by many names which include slipped disc, bulging disc, pinched nerve, torn or ruptured disc etc. but these all are one Herniated disc injury and the same thing. Before understanding what a herniated disc is, we need to go through the anatomy of our spine. It is comprised of small discs that are rubbery pads in between pieces of bones known as the vertebrae. These discs act as shock absorbents and help in the flexible movement of the spine. These discs have a gooey and jelly-like center and a thick exterior.
A herniated disc or a ruptured disc occurs when the jelly center of the disc is forced out of the hard exterior. It can be due to a tear in the exterior or due to the wearing out of the exterior with age. This interior substance irritates the surrounding nerves and area which gives birth to pain. It also starts restricting the motion since the padding between the vertebrae goes away. In addition to that, it causes numbness and tingling feeling.
Since, lower back is the area which bears all the weight of the upper body and has to undergo various forces and wear and tear, this is the area which has the most chances to develop a herniated disc. Our lower back has a critical role in our movement whether it is sitting down, standing up or walking. Therefore, the wear and tear in the lower back area is the most and requires the most care.
What causes the pain?
There can be two main reasons associated with the herniated disc that causes the pain. These are:
- Disc itself: if with age or due to an injury the disc gets worn out or damaged it can result in the instability of the spine which causes the pain. A damaged disc on its own can be very painful in case of any kind of movement because it cannot take the pressure at all.
- Nerve ending: this kind of a pain is quite common. It happens when the disc itself is okay and does not cause any pain but the jelly-like material which comes out of the disc is a source of irritation for the nerves all around. These irritated or pinched nerves cause a pain known as radicular pain. It shoots this pain around the body specifically in the lower back and thigh area.
The symptoms that a patient faces depends on the location of the herniated disc but the most common symptoms that are seen in almost all the patients of a herniated disc are:
- Pain: the area of the pain depends on the size and the position of the disc. The most common position of a ruptured disc in the lower back which causes pain in the leg, this is also known as sciatica. If the herniated disc is located in the upper body, it might cause pain in the arm.
- Numbness: numbness is usually followed by severe pain due to nerve pinching. A feeling of weakness or numbness is very common in a herniated This can be felt in both the arm or the leg. Furthermore, along with numbness, the patient might feel a tingling sensation.
- Weakness: since the nerves are involved in this, the muscles associated with the nerves can get weak and cause the patient to stumble time and again.
The main causes that can result in a herniated disc are:
- Improper postures: frequent improper posture which includes improper movements and lifting postures can cause the herniated disc. Picking things up by bending rather than by squatting you are damaging your discs.
- Degenerative disc syndrome: this is when with time or age when the spine wears out and cannot absorbs shocks as much as it used to. According to always physio the chances of herniated disc increase by 50 percent from the age of 20 to 80 years.
- Sudden trauma or accident: an abrupt of a sudden movement or jerk due to a car collision or because of falling down results in a herniated disk. This is common among sportsmen.
There are two kinds of treatments for a herniated disc. The non-invasive methods include physical therapy, chiropractic care, injects and massages. The physical therapy that is given to patients is a special spine specialized physical therapy which includes heat treatment and exercises like stretching and aerobics that is specially designed for treating herniated discs. The injections are epidural steroid injections which are injected in the surrounding area for the radicular pain.
In invasive methods which are basically surgeries, the patient undergoes microdiscectomy, disc replacement or a spinal fusion. The microdiscectomy is the most common and minimum invasive method, which requires cutting of the protruded part.
How can physical therapy help patients?
The subject of study, in this case, is a 71 years old female who was diagnosed with a cervical herniated disc. The pain was radiating in the upper body including the neck and left arm. She was referred to physical therapy as a first resort as invasive methods are not safe in her age. Along with physical therapy, she was given a few exercises to practice at home.
The physical therapy also included cold and hot treatment along with stretching and aerobics. After continuing the physical therapy for four weeks she was able to get back to her life without having to face the excruciating pain every day.
If you need help, contact us immediately. Our Chiropractor or Physiotherapist can treat you well.