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A herniated disc refers to a problem with one of the rubbery cushions (discs) between the individual bones (vertebrae) that stack up to make your spine.
A spinal disc is a little like a jelly donut, with a softer center encased within a tougher exterior. Sometimes called a slipped disc or a ruptured disc, a herniated disc occurs when some of the softer “jelly” pushes out through a tear in the tougher exterior.
A herniated disc is a relatively common condition that can occur anywhere along the spine, but most often affects the lower back or neck region. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
The common symptoms of a herniated disc are:
You also can have a herniated disc without knowing it — herniated discs sometimes show up on spinal images of people who have no symptoms of a disc problem. There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
Seek medical attention if your neck or back pain travels down your arm or leg, or if it’s accompanied by numbness, tingling or weakness. If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
A disc herniation is most often the result of a gradual, aging-related wear and tear called disc degeneration. As you age, your spinal discs lose some of their water content. That makes them less flexible and more prone to tearing or rupturing with even a minor strain or twist.
Most people can’t pinpoint the exact cause of their herniated disc. Sometimes, using your back muscles instead of your leg and thigh muscles to lift large, heavy objects can lead to a herniated disc, as can twisting and turning while lifting. Rarely, a traumatic event such as a fall or a blow to the back can cause a herniated disc.
There are many risk factors for herniated disc, such as:
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
History and physical examination point to a diagnosis of a herniated disc. A herniated disc is likely if low back pain is accompanied by radiating leg pain in a nerve root distribution with positive straight leg raising test (ie, elevating the leg while lying down causes radiating pain down the leg), and other neurologic deficits such as numbness, weakness, and altered reflexes.
Imaging studies are usually ordered to confirm a diagnosis of a herniated disc. X-rays are not the imaging medium of choice because soft tissues (eg, discs, nerves) are hard to capture with this technology. However, they may be used as an initial tool to rule out other disorders such as a growth or fracture. Confirmation of the suspicion of herniated disc is generally accomplished with:
Conservative treatment — mainly avoiding painful positions and following a planned exercise and pain-medication regimen — relieves symptoms in most people within a few days or weeks.
If your pain has not resolved within a few weeks, your doctor may suggest physical therapy. Physical therapists can show you positions and exercises designed to minimize the pain of a herniated disc.
A very small number of people with herniated discs eventually need surgery. Your doctor may suggest surgery if conservative treatments fail to improve your symptoms after six weeks, especially if you continue to experience:
In many cases, surgeons can remove just the protruding portion of the disc. Rarely, however, the entire disc must be removed. In these cases, the vertebrae may need to be fused together with metal hardware to provide spinal stability. Rarely, your surgeon may suggest the implantation of an artificial disc.
Some alternative and complementary medicine treatments may help ease chronic back pain. Examples include:
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage a herniated disc?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with herniated disc:
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you. Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
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