A herniated disc refers to a slipped, ruptured, or bulging spinal disc. Spinal discs are rubbery cushions (disks) that are found in between each vertebra that stack to make up your spine.
A spinal disc has a soft, jellylike center called nucleus that is encased in a tougher, rubbery exterior called annulus.
A herniated disc occurs when some of the nucleus pushes out through a tear, or rupture in the annulus.
It can occur in any part of the spine. When a herniated disc occurs, it can irritate or press against a nearby nerve, resulting in pain, numbness or weakness in your back, arm, or leg.
Can a herniated disc heal itself?
A herniated disc can heal on its own over time. Most people with herniated disc feel better in about 4 weeks. However, if your symptoms don’t get better and you still continue to feel pain or numbness after 4-6 weeks, consult your doctor for proper treatment.
How painful is a herniated disc?
The pain from a herniated disc is often described as a sharp or burning pain. Most people with herniated disc often have radiating pain that spreads over the buttocks down to the back of one thigh and into the calf. Some people feel pain in both legs. Some people feel numbness or tingling in the part of their body that is served by the affected nerves. The pain from a herniated disc usually gets worse when active and gets better when at rest.
How do you fix a herniated disc?
The treatment options for a herniated disc include:
• Applying heat or cold – Applying cold packs on the area where you feel pain can be used to relieve pain and inflammation. You can then switch to applying gentle heat after a few days to relieve pain and make you feel more comfortable.
• Over-the-counter pain medications – Taking over-the-counter pain medication, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen sodium can help relieve mild to moderate pain.
• Opioids – If over-the-counter pain medications don’t relieve your pain, your doctor may prescribe opioids for short-term use. Opioids such as codeine or an oxycodone-acetaminophen combination may be prescribed for severe pain. Opioids could become addictive; hence should be taken for a short period of time.
• Cortisone injections – Corticosteroid injection is used if your pain doesn’t improve with oral medications. Injecting corticosteroids into the area around the spinal nerves responsible for the pain can help block the pain. Corticosteroid injection doesn’t provide permanent pain relief. Corticosteroid injections can provide pain relief for up to a few months.
• Muscle relaxers – Your doctor may prescribe muscle relaxers if you have muscle spasms.
• Physical therapy – Stretching and strengthening exercises can help you return to normal activities. A physical therapist can show you positions and exercises to help reduce your pain.
• Complementary treatment – Spinal manipulation, massage, and acupuncture may help relieve pain and facilitate healing.
• Surgery – If other conservative treatments fail to improve your symptoms after 6 weeks, your doctor might suggest surgery. The most common surgery that could be performed is called diskectomy. In a diskectomy, the protruding part of the ruptured disc is removed so it doesn’t press against the spinal nerve roots anymore. The entire disc is rarely removed. This procedure is known as disc replacement surgery. An artificial disk may be fixed to replace the original disc removed. Spinal fusion surgery may also be suggested to provide spinal stability.
Is a herniated disc serious?
Yes. A herniated disc can irritate the spinal cord or nearby nerves, causing chronic pain, weakness and numbness. An untreated, severe herniated disc can lead to permanent nerve damage that could lead to paralysis. In very rare cases, a herniated disc can cut off or disrupt nerve impulses to the nerves in your lower back and legs. This condition may cause you to lose bowel or bladder control.
What is the fastest way to heal a herniated disc?
The fastest way to relieve pain and inflammation from a herniated disc pain is by applying ice pack or heating pad. You can also take over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammation drugs such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen sodium. You may also feel relief by resting.
What activities should you avoid with a herniated disc?
Avoid activities whereby you need to bend such as doing laundry, vacuuming, carrying heavy objects, etc. Avoid sitting on a couch or chair for a prolonged period of time as sitting down can put a lot of pressure on your spinal discs that could cause pain and discomfort. Avoid twisting and straining your back. Avoid certain exercises and activities whereby you exert great stress or strain on your back and spine.
Is walking good for a herniated disc?
Avoiding all physical activity while you’re experiencing pain or discomfort from a herniated disc can lead to muscle weakness and joint stiffness. Doctors advised that patients with herniated disc should try to remain as active as possible through moderate aerobic activities or low-impact activities such as walking, biking, and swimming.
Can a chiropractor fix a herniated disc?
Yes. A chiropractor treats herniated disc, and the associated nerve interference. A chiropractor can fix the root cause of the problem in a natural, risk-free way. A chiropractor can develop a treatment plan that may include spinal manipulation and other chiropractic techniques to help fix a herniated disc.
How long does it take for a disc herniation to heal?
It takes about 4-6 weeks for a herniated disc to completely heal.
How long does it take a herniated disc to heal without surgery?
By rest and undergoing other conservative treatments, you may experience significant improvements within 4-6 weeks. However, it is not certain that a herniated disc will heal with conservative treatments. If you still feel pain or your symptoms are not improving, your doctor may suggest surgery.
Can you feel a herniated disc with your fingers?
You cannot feel a herniated disc with your fingers. If you have a herniated lumbar disc, you may feel pain that radiates from your lower back down to one or both legs. The pain may also radiate down to your feet. Signs and symptoms of herniated disc may range from mild tingling and numbness to moderate or severe pain that may feel like an electric shock, sharp, or burning pain. Diagnostic imaging scans for herniated disc include X-ray, CT scan and MRI. Your doctor may also conduct nerve tests such as nerve conduction study to measure electrical nerve impulses, or electromyography to evaluate the electrical activity of your muscles.
How do you sleep with a herniated disc?
Sleep on your side curled in a fetal position. Lie on your back and gently roll over onto your side. Bend your knees toward your chest and curl your torso toward your knees. Switch sides from time to time.
The best sleeping position for persons with herniated disc pain may be sleeping on the back. This is because sleeping on the back helps to keep the spine in neutral alignment. Place a pillow under your knees to make you feel more comfortable.