The human spine is essential to the daily optimum function of individuals, as it provides protection for the spinal cord and nerves, makes bending doable, and also acts as a shock absorber of the back. The discs, which are soft and supple structures that are comprised of an outer ring made out of cartilage and an inner layer which is basically of gel-like consistency, are tucked between the bony vertebrae of the spinal column. When the cartilage layer is torn, the inner gel-like layer juts out, resulting in the compression of the surrounding nerves. Pain, numbness, or tingling will then ensue.
What happens in herniated discs?
During a person’s prime, discs are normally filled with about 80% water which gradually decreases as he ages. This decrease in water content causes for the discs to become rigid and makes them more prone to damage. Aside from aging, other factors like smoking, obesity, trauma, and improper body mechanics can also cause disc herniation.
Otherwise known as ruptured or slipped discs, herniated discs occur most commonly to adults aged between 30 and 50 and generally occur anywhere in the spine, particularly the cervical and lumbar spine. Pain and numbness in the neck, lower back, arm, or leg are the hallmarks of herniated discs. These can be described further with the following:
- Asymmetric tingling, numbness, or pain in the arm
- Pain that exacerbates with extended sitting, bending, coughing, or sneezing
- Pain or weakness in one or both legs
- Neck pain caused by turning or twisting
- Reduced or loss of bladder and bowel control
Ninety percent of the time, herniated disc cases are pretty much manageable without surgical intervention. The condition can even heal without any intervention through the process of resorption, in which the gel-like portion of the disc (also known as the nucleus) is absorbed by the body. However, the presence of pain and numbness which can be disruptive to the productivity of a person necessitates a treatment regimen that aims to achieve the following:
- Return to day-to-day routine, resuming the capability to perform daily tasks and occupational endeavors efficiently
- Relieve pain and weakness in affected areas
- Prevent recurrence of back pain and ensure that the risk of disability is reduced to a minimum
Just as in any other illness or disease condition, surgery is always a last resort. Before surgery is done, all nonsurgical efforts must be exhausted. The following are some of the simplest, yet most effective nonsurgical options to treat pain from herniated disc:
- A brief hiatus from regular activities may be recommended, with gradual resumption after recovery signs are felt and confirmed.
- Through physical or mechanical manipulation as well as exercise education, a therapist can help strengthen the muscles of your lower back.
- Prescription and over-the-counter drugs both can be effective in pain relief from herniated disc. Some examples include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and acetaminophen.
Minimally invasive techniques
- Modern techniques are now available for patients who are experiencing back pain. These come in the form of steroid injections for different parts of the spine.