Herniated (Slipped) Disc

Overview

The arrangement of a series of bones or vertebrae in a stack forms the spinal column. Seven bones constitute the cervical spine, twelve bones in the thoracic spine, and five vertebrae in the lumbar spine, along with sacrum and coccyx lying at the base. There are discs present as cushions in between the bones to prevent grinding against each other. A herniated disk or slipped disc indicates a problem in the rubbery cushions.

What is Herniated Disk

Each disc has two parts. The softer and gelatinous inner part is the nucleus pulposus, and the tough outer layer is the annulus fibrosus. When the stronger outer section ruptures, the gel-like inner section will leak into the spinal canal. You will start experiencing pain and discomfort when the gel and some parts of the outer disc press against the nerve roots that run along the spinal axis.

Plan Consultation

Disc herniation is often the result of wear and tear of the disk with age. Over time, the spinal discs gradually lose the fluid volume causing degenerative disc disease.

Symptoms of Herniated Disk 

There is a chance of slipped disc in any part of the spine, beginning from the neck to the lower back. Maximum case reports involve issues in the lower back. So the common area for herniated disk is the lower back part. There is an intricate network of blood vessels and nerves in and around the spinal column. The medical condition will exert undue pressure on the muscles and nerves, causing much pain. 

 

The general symptoms include

  • Numbness and pain, mostly on one side of your body
  • Pain can worsen at night or after doing some movements
  • Pain can extend to the arms and legs
  • Standing or sitting posture can worsen the pain
  • Walking across a short distance will also worsen pain
  • Unexplained weakness in the muscles
  • Persistent aching, tingling, and burning sensations in the affected section.

The nature of pain can vary from person to person. It can affect your conscious control ability on the muscles. Therefore, consult a doctor immediately if you notice these symptoms. 

Causes of Herniated Disk

Disc herniation is often the result of wear and tear of the disk with age. Over time, the spinal discs gradually lose the fluid volume causing degenerative disc disease. The continuous wear will cause microscopic cracks on the outer surface. The gel-like interior thus gets an escape route. 

Certain motions can also be responsible for herniated disk. Overstressing the spinal disc by lifting or twisting something heavy is possible. This will rupture the disc due to high-impact trauma. That is why you can suffer from the condition after an accident or slip-and-fall case too. 

Risk factors:

Most people can't pinpoint the exact reason leading to the herniated disk. But there are certain factors that increase your risk of disk herniation. 

  • Weight: Excessive body weight will undoubtedly cause additional stress on the cushions between the bones, especially in the lower back.
  • Occupation: If your job is physically demanding, you stand more likely to suffer from the condition. Pulling, pushing, repetitive lifting, bending sideways, and constant twisting will add to the risk.
  • Smoking: As smoking lessens the supply of oxygen to the disk, the breakdown gets easier. 
  • Genetics: You can inherit the predisposition to develop the condition.

When to See a Doctor:

Don't ignore the tingling sensation that indicates herniated-disk-or-slipped-disc. It is absolutely essential to consult a doctor if you think that the numbness is increasing. Seek medical attention when you notice that the pain is traveling from the neck down the arms and legs. 

How to prevent Herniated Disk: 

If you think that prevention is better than cure, then do the following to avoid disk herniation:

  • Regular exercise: It strengthens the trunk muscles. Hence, the spinal column gets better support and stability.
  • Maintain optimum weight: Avoid putting on weight that exerts undue pressure on the disks and spine and makes them more susceptible to herniation.
  • Maintain right posture: maintaining the right alignment of the spinal column, especially while sitting for a long time, will provide some relief from herniated disk. 
  • Quit smoking: Avoiding the use of any tobacco products will help to prevent the condition. 

Treatments of Herniated Disk or Slipped Disc

Most patients respond well to non-surgical treatment procedures. The doctor will encourage you to adopt healthy lifestyle practices along with some stretching exercises. Physiotherapy can help a lot to reduce pain and further degeneration. 

Spinal surgeries are helpful when the non-surgical strategies don't work. 

  • Microdiscectomy can reduce the pressure on the spinal cord by removing portions of the herniated disk or slipped disc.
  • Laminectomy involves the removal of a part of the vertebral bone. It creates more space for the nerves and the spinal column to reduce compression. 
  • Microlaminoforaminotomy is about the removal of a piece of bone to make more space for the pinched nerves.

Related conditions

Limitations in mobility are something that you cant avoid when you are suffering from herniated disk or slipped disc, if the condition is not good, then the doctor will suggest restricting some movements. It will repeatedly prevent pressure on the same section, which will ooze out further fluid from the cushions. 

Physiotherapy goes a long way in reducing the pain of herniated disk or slipped disc and improving the condition. Constant pain will be your partner unless you follow the exercise regime according to the medical practitioner's instructions. Otherwise, the numbness will increase and spread to the upper parts of the spinal column too.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What can cause herniated-disk-or-slipped-disc?
The normal aging process, over-exertion, obesity, trauma, and genetics can be the common reasons for disc herniation.
2. Why should you start immediate treatment?
If the herniated disk or slipped disc is affecting you and there are serious symptoms, then seeking medical attention immediately is almost mandatory. The symptoms can get worse if you try to ignore the condition. If you choose to avoid treatment, the back muscles will get weaker and won't support the spine.
3. How will you know that the condition is serious?
Bowel and bladder dysfunction can be a symptom of untreated herniated disk or slipped disc. It indicates that the condition is worsening, and the nerves are suffering from acute compression. Progressive loss of sensation can also occur in the area around the rectum, back of the legs, and inner thighs.

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