Spinal discs sit between each vertebra in your back and behave like cushions that prevent the vertebrae rubbing together when you bend or twist your back. When a disc slips out of place it's referred to as a herniated disc, and it can put pressure on the surrounding nerves and cause back pain severe enough to impact on your quality of life. It's not always possible to identify the cause of a herniated disc, but it can occur due to age-related wear and tear, being obese, and having a poor technique when lifting heavy objects. Here's an overview of the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment approach for a herniated disc:
Symptoms of a herniated disc can vary depending on which part of the spine the disc is located, but in addition to back pain, common symptoms include muscle weakness and numbness or tingling caused by the herniated disc pressing on a nerve. A herniated disc in the lower back can cause a burning pain that radiates down to your thighs, while a herniated disc in your neck can cause pain cross your shoulders and down into your arms. Some people also experience headaches and tightness in the muscles of the back.
Diagnosis And Treatment Approach
Your doctor will diagnose a herniated disc by taking details of your symptoms and conducting a physical examination, which may include manipulating your back into a number of positions to determine tolerance and muscle strength and to pinpoint the exact location in your back that's causing your symptoms. Diagnostic imaging, such as an MRI or CT scan, will be required to confirm a disc has slipped out of place and determine which nerves or sections of surrounding tissue have been affected.
There are a number of treatment options for a herniated disc, and your doctor will recommend a treatment plan based on the severity of your symptoms. Muscle relaxers can be prescribed to reduce tension in your back and help relieve pressure on a pinched nerve, and corticosteroids injections can be administered at the site of the herniated disc to relieve inflammation and reduce back pain. Physiotherapy may also be suggested with the aim of strengthening your back muscles, reducing pain and freeing a trapped nerve by gradual, gentle manipulation of the slipped disc. When conservative treatment has not been successful and bringing relief from your symptoms, your doctor may suggest you undergo surgery to have the protruding section of the affected disc removed. I some cases, an artificial disc will be implanted to prevent friction between the affected vertebrae.
If you have any of the symptoms associated with a herniated disc, schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible to discuss herniated disc treatment options to ensure your back pain is resolved without prolonged unnecessary suffering.