If you’re not familiar with the term “herniated disc,” you may have heard of this condition’s alternative titles, which include “bulging disc” and “ruptured disc” (just to name a few). However you label it, a disc injury can be quite painful and may impact your ability to enjoy life to the fullest.
What is A Herniated Disc?
The spine features cushioning discs that provide stability and flexibility. Essentially, they serve as the spine’s shock absorbers. Each disc features a soft, gel-like core and a tougher outer shell. Sudden injury or a degenerative condition can place excessive force on the disc, causing its inner core to seep through its shell and enter into the spinal canal. Herniated discs can sometimes irritate nearby spinal nerves or the spinal cord.
What are the Symptoms of a Herniated Disc?
Herniated discs can trigger a variety of symptoms, ranging from hardly noticeable to debilitating. If the disc is causing nerve compression, pain or tingling sensations may be felt in the area of the body that the affected nerve feeds. For instance, patients may feel radiating pain in one or both legs in addition to the discomfort around where the herniated disc is located, which is in the neck or lower back. Pain from this condition is described as being deep and sharp, although symptoms can vary from patient to patient.
Be sure to visit your doctor if you feel new or unusual back pain or tingling sensations.
How is a Herniated Disc Diagnosed?
Before diagnosis, many herniated disc patients experience lower back pain that may or may not travel down the legs or to another part of the body. Some may have trouble leaning forward or backward without discomfort, and others may walk with a limp in order to avoid putting weight on the side of the body that hurts.
Many back conditions share the same symptoms, so it’s important to visit a doctor for a conclusive diagnosis. Most doctors use MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or a CT scan to visualize bone anatomy in the spinal column and identify any injuries to the discs.
How is a Herniated Disc Treated?
Thankfully, many people can effectively manage their herniated disc pain without surgery. Depending on the extent of the injury, its location in the spine, and whether or not it is causing nerve compression, your doctor may recommend a combination of:
- Physical therapy
- Over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medication
- Gentle stretching and exercise
- Anti-inflammatory spinal injections
- Periodic resting
Treatment is most successful when you are open and honest with your doctor. Be sure to carefully describe all your symptoms, follow any suggested treatment plans, and voice any concerns you may have about your condition or treatment.
Surgical treatment may be recommended if nonsurgical methods fail to improve severe symptoms. The goal of herniated disc surgery is usually to relieve nerve or spinal cord compression or remove a portion of the damaged disc.
If you have been diagnosed with a herniated disc, you have options besides living in pain. Consult with your doctor about possible treatment options that can help you get back to the activities you enjoy as quickly and safely as possible.
Florida Medical Orthopaedics, Sports Medicine & Spine is proud to serve families in Wesley Chapel and Tampa, Florida.