Herniated Disk: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment in Dallas & Mansfield, TX the spinal disks, also known as intervertebral disks are rubbery pads or cushions between each vertebra that make up the spinal cord. A spinal disk is a flat, circular capsule that is about an inch in diameter and one-quarter inch thick. It has a tough fibrous outer membrane and an elastic core.
The disks are firmly embedded between the vertebrae and are held in place by the ligaments. The disks separate each vertebra or bone from another. It keeps the vertebrae from rubbing against each other. The disk also acts as shock absorber for the spine and makes the spine more flexible.
When younger, the disk is surrounded by fluids-filler sacs that make it slippery. As we grow older, the soft inner material begins to harden and the disk becomes less slippery and elastic. The older we get, the more the disk losses fluids and the outer protective lining gets weaker. The disk becomes more prone to injury and degenerative effects.
A herniated disk refers to a condition whereby the disk gets ruptured and slip out of position. This occurs when the jellylike center of the disk pushes out through a tear in the exterior of the disk.
A herniated disk can occur in any part of the spine and can press against a nearby nerve, causing pain, numbness or weakness in your arm, back, and down to your leg.
Causes of herniated disk
Disk degeneration is the wear and tear of the disk that occurs as we grow older. Your disk gradually losses its outer protective lining and becomes less flexible as you get older. It becomes more prone to tear or rupture even from a minor twist or strain.
Sometimes the exact cause of herniated disk is not known. However, there are certain factors that increases the risk of a herniated disk
Individuals that are overweight exert stress on the disks and this could cause a herniated disk.
Individuals with inherited traits of a herniated disk are more prone to developing the problem.
Smoking reduces oxygen supply to the disk and causes the disk to break down more quickly.
Individuals that their jobs entail lifting objects, bending for a prolonged period of time or bending frequently are more prone to developing herniated disk.
The aging effect causes the disk to degenerate over time. Wears and tears of the disk can lead to herniated disk
Other risk factors include lack of exercise, poor posture, poor muscle tone, and sitting on a particular position for a long period of time.
Symptoms of Herniated Disk
The common symptom of herniated disk is the feeling of pain in the area where the nerve is affected.
You may experience the symptoms on one side of your body.
You may also not notice that you have herniated disk due to lack of symptoms.
If the herniated disk happens in your lower back, you’ll typically feel more pain in your buttocks, thigh, calf and part of your foot.
If the herniated disk happened in your neck region, you’ll typically feel more pain in your shoulder and arm.
You may also experience numbness or tingling sensation in the area where the nerve is affected.
You may also experience muscle weakness in the area where the nerve is affected.
Diagnosis of Herniated Disk
During diagnosis for herniated disk, your doctor will conduct a physical exam and review your medical history. You may be asked to lie on your stomach so that your doctor can check your back for tenderness. Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms. You may be told to move your legs into various positions to determine when you feel more pain.
Your doctor may also perform a neurological exam to check your reflexes, muscle strength, walking ability and sensations.
Your doctor may also conduct imaging tests such as x-ray, MRI, or CT scan to see the nerves that are affected.
Your doctor may also conduct a test called Myelogram. The test is used to view multiple herniated disks or other conditions that may be exerting pressure on your nerves or spinal cord.
Your doctor may also conduct nerve tests such as nerve conduction study and electromyography to how well electrical impulses are moving along your nerve tissue. This helps your doctor to know the exact location of nerve damage.
Treatment of herniated disk
Treatment of herniated disk is aimed at relieving pain and inflammation. If conservative treatments don’t improve your condition, then surgery may be required.
Treatment options include:
Lifestyle and home remedies
Lifestyle and home remedies that can help improve your condition include:
Apply heat or cold
You can place ice packs wrapped in a towel on the affected area to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. After some days, you can then switch to applying gentle heat such as heated pads to provide relief and comfort.
Avoid too much bed rest
Do not lie on the bed for a long period of time to prevent joint stiffness and weak muscles. Rest for about 30 minutes and then do some exercises or walks intermittently.
Avoid activities that worsen your pain
Avoid activities that worsen your pain such as lifting heavy objects, sitting on a position for a long period of time, bending or twisting awkwardly.
Over-the-counter pain relievers
Taking over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, or acetaminophen can help relieve mild to moderate pain.
Injecting corticosteroids into the epidural space where the affected nerve is located can help relieve more severe pain and inflammation.
Your doctor may prescribe muscle relaxers medications if you have muscle spasms.
If other medications don’t relieve your pain, your doctor may prescribe opioids such as codeine, or oxycodone. Opioids are used for short term because they could become addictive.
There are certain physical therapies that your doctor may recommend to improve your condition. Your therapists can help recommend specific exercises that can help relieve pain associated with herniated disk.
Surgery is the last option when other treatment options have to improve your condition.
A laminectomy, discectomy, or spinal fusion may be recommended depending on the severity of your condition.
A laminectomy is a surgery used to open up or widen a narrowed spinal cord to reduce pressure on the affected nerves.
A discectomy is the removal of part or all of a herniated disk that is exerting pressure on a nerve.
Spinal fusion is used to fix the spine to provide stability.