minute comfortably, trying to stand up, oh..! no! A sharp pain radiates through the lower back. Do you know the reason? It might be due to a slipped or herniated disk. A lumbar herniated disc is a widespread medical condition; most people of age between 35 to 50 are affected by this condition. The symptoms of lumbar disc prolapse are known in the general public as sciatica. It nearly affects 1-2% of all people of ages between 30 and 50.
The spine is a resilient structure built with a series of connected bones called vertebrae. The disc is a combination of connective tissues that hold one vertebra
to the next. Spinal discs play a significant part in your lower back. They act as
A cushion between the vertebrae that support the upper body and allows a wide
range of motion in all directions.
What Is Lumbar Herniated Disc?
The disc has two parts – a soft, gel-like inner portion called nucleus pulposus
and a tough outer ring called the annulus fibrosus. If this disc gets damaged by
any means, the gel content inside the disc comes out through a weak spot in the
tough outer wall. In such cases, the disc slips and compresses the adjacent nerve
called a herniated disc or prolapsed disc.
Usually, herniated disc condition is often noticed in the early stage of degeneration. When the discs in the spinal canal get slipped or herniated, the spinal nerve compressed or pressurised leading to back pain, which may be severe. Mostly, herniated disc problems occur in the lower lumbar spine causing lower back pain.
When To Consult A Spine Surgeon?
Herniated disc or a slipped disc problem may happen in any part along the spine
from your neck to lower back. The symptoms of a slipped disc problem depend on the location of disc herniation and whether the nerve tissue is involved or not. A disc herniation may cause local pain at the site of the spine affected. This is due to the pressing of nerves and muscles around it due to disc herniation. Often this is also termed as a pinched nerve. Some other symptoms include:
- Pain that mostly occurs on one side of the body
- Intense pain extending to your or legs
- Pain that worsens at night time
- Pain that worsens after standing or sitting
- Sciatic pain even walking short distances
- Tingling or burning feelings in the affected area
If the herniated disc problem occurs in the cervical spine, you may experience intense pain down one arm and stiff neck or muscle spasm in the neck. The type of pain differs from person to person. Consult a spine doctor if you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above before it affects your ability to control your muscles.
What Causes Herniated Disc?
The herniation of disc may develop suddenly or slowly over weeks or months. In childhood, the discs have high water content and help the spinal discs to stay flexible between the vertebrae. However, over time as we age, it is the normal process of ageing that the discs start to dry out and become harder. This may cause the disc’s outer ring more brittle and vulnerable to damage and tear even for mild movements, such as bending lifting small weights and twisting of your lower back.
The herniation of disc mostly progresses in four stages such as disc degeneration, prolapse, extrusion, sequestration or sequestered disc. Injury or trauma is another cause which can lead to a slipped disc problem. Some other risk factors causing herniated disc include:
- Overweight or obesity
- lack of regular exercise
- Inadequate nutrition can also contribute to poor disc health
- Poor posture
Lifting heavy or very large objects can highly strain your lower back that may result in a slipped disc. If you are in a job that requires a lot of physical work like lifting, you are at risk of slipped discs.
How To Treat Herniated Disc?
Most of the patients with herniated disc problems will improve on their own within a few weeks. In the meantime, you can try one or more conventional treatments that make you feel better.
Nonsurgical Treatment For Herniated Disc
A spine doctor may prescribe nonsurgical treatments such as rest for a short period of time, anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen or naproxen that helps to relieve your pain and bring down swelling.
Physiotherapy and some exercises can improve the condition of the herniated disc. A physical therapist can help you to strengthen the muscles supporting your back through some exercises. Physical therapy program includes:
- Stretching exercises to improve muscle flexibility
- Core exercises to improve the strength and stability of the spine
- Aerobic exercises
- Massage therapy
- Ultrasound therapy
- Ice and heat
- Electrical muscle stimulation
A spine doctor injects steroid medicine to treat the herniation when resting, pain relievers, and physical therapy can’t improve the pain and swelling due to herniated disk. The steroid injection is called an epidural injection.
Surgery For Herniated Disc
Most of the herniated disc problem doesn’t require surgery. Usually, spine doctors suggest nonsurgical treatment methods initially to treat this slipped disc condition. If the nonsurgical treatment for herniated disc problem doesn’t show any improvement, a spine surgeon might recommend surgical intervention to repair damaged disc.
Most of the herniations in young patients will benefit from microsurgery or endoscopic or tubular surgeries which are essentially minimally invasive in nature. These are discussed in my other blogs. Extensive surgeries such as lumbar laminectomy, spinal fusion, instrumentation are only needed in special situations.
For more information about disc problems or facing any spine problems, consult Dr Surya Prakash, the best spine surgeon in Hyderabad. Some self-care tips can prevent such as avoiding tobacco use, maintaining a healthy weight, lifting heavy objects carefully etc.