The spine consists of 24 bones or vertebrae lined up on top of each other, separated by small, spongy discs that act as a cushion, supporting and protecting the back vertebrae from injuries.
Spinal discs are made of liquid jelly-like substances shaped like round bands with a thick outer layer called fibrocartilage, which surrounds the nucleus within the disc.
Disc Herniation is a common spinal injury among both men and women, and it can occur in any part of your spine, including the lower back (lumbar spine), neck (cervical spine), and upper back (thoracic spine) in some rare cases.
One can develop herniated disc disease as a result of a rupture in the outer rubbery part of the disc, allowing the liquid substance inside to leak out or for the disc to bulge and swell up between the back vertebrae as the nucleus is pushed out of the disc into the spinal canal, placing massive pressure on the spinal nerves and causing severe pain in various parts of the body.
Here’s everything you need to know about the causes of disc herniation, the most common symptoms, and how to treat a herniated disc.
Disc Herniation Causes
The cause of a herniated disc or spinal hernia varies from one person to another and depends on several factors, including:
Ageing contributes to the loss of fluid within the discs naturally over time, a condition known as “degenerative disc disease,” in which disc erosion gradually causes fractures to form on the outer surface of the disc, allowing the liquid inside to seep out.
Sudden injuries and bone spurs can cause discs to bulge or move out of their regular positions, including injuries sustained by automobile accidents and sports-related activities. Additionally, spinal discs can be severely harmed as a result of lifting heavy weights and applying repetitive pressure to the back vertebrae.
Genetic Factors And Chronic Diseases
You may be more likely to develop a herniated disc if a member of your family has suffered from it. Obesity and frequent arthritic flare-ups also increase your risk of a herniated disc, as they compress the lower back discs.
Driving For a Long time
Sitting immobile for extended periods of time places pressure on your spine and discs, especially with the car’s constant rattles while driving. Therefore, we recommend exercising daily if the nature of your work requires sitting still for a long time.
Disc Herniation Symptoms
The patient may experience lower back pain if the disc is partially ruptured, but such pain usually goes away on its own within a few days. Spinal hernia symptoms commonly include:
- Mild discomfort in one leg
- Feeling pain while standing, walking, or bending
- Muscle spasm or weakness
- Limping on one leg.
- Difficulties rising from a seated posture
- Inability to maintain a single position for a prolonged time
- Bad back posture
When the cartilage slides and places pressure on the spinal cord’s nerves, you may experience frequent bursts of pain in the lower back and numbness, tingling, or twitching sensation in the leg and foot. As mentioned previously, symptoms differ depending on the location of the herniated disc, which we detail below:
Lumbar Herniated Disc (Lower back)
It is common for patients with a herniated disc in their lower backs to suffer from sciatica because the disc slides and places pressure on the hip nerves of one leg. This excruciatingly painful sensation spreads down the leg and even to the foot at night.
Lumbar disc herniation can cause pain that resembles a sharp electric shock, and this pain doesn’t just impact the leg but also travels to the lower back area, making it difficult to sit or stand.
Cervical Herniated Disc (Nick)
Cervical Herniated Disc in the neck causes neck and shoulder pain, tingling or numbness in one or both arms, and burning sensation when moving the neck in certain positions or while coughing or sneezing. This pain travels down the arm to the hand or fingers as the condition worsens.
Disc Herniation Treatment
Most patients respond to methods of non-surgical means of treating spinal hernia and herniated disc as outlined below:
- Taking a break: our experts recommend a few days off from intense physical activity, such as vigorous exercise, going up and downstairs, or lifting heavy objects to alleviate back and leg pain.
- Medication: Your doctor may prescribe Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) to help ease the pain of the disc herniation and surrounding nerves and tendons
- Physical therapy: Your physiotherapist will tailor a treatment plan to meet your specific needs and promote muscular relaxation. Your therapy may include massage, electrical stimulation, ultrasound, or exercises to strengthen the lower back, abdomen, and pelvic muscles.
It’s worth emphasizing that the non-surgical treatments discussed above do not cure or eliminate disc herniation; instead, they help you manage symptoms while the disc heals and the hernia dissolves naturally in the body.
Surgical treatment options for spinal hernia are used only in complicated conditions to reduce pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, and they include the following:
- Discectomy surgery: Used to remove the herniated disc and alleviate pain.
- Laminectomy surgery: includes removing a portion of the bone around the herniated disc in order to expand and reduce pressure on the spinal canal.
- Artificial Disk Replacement: This procedure is used to permanently treat a herniated disc by replacing it with an artificial one.
You can find the world’s top orthopedic professionals at Novomed. Call us at our free-line numbers to answer all of your questions, or stop by at one of our locations situated all across the Emirates for a private consultation!