The vertebrae that create the spine in the back are shielded with discs. These discs are round, small pillows with a hard outer layer surrounding the nucleus. These discs are present between each vertebra in the spinal column; discs act as a back and spinal bone shock absorber. A herniated or ruptured disc is a particle of the disc nucleus forced out of the annulus into the spinal canal by a rupture in the annulus. Discs become herniated gradually in the early stages of degeneration. The spinal canal has less or limited space, insufficient for a spinal nerve and the dislocated or displaced herniated disc fragments. Due to this dislocation, the disc presses or suppresses the spinal nerve and causes pain, which may be severe. Herniated or ruptured discs can occur in any part of the spine. But it is more common in the lower back (lumbar spine) and neck (cervical spine).
Specific individuals or people may be more at risk of disc problems and may suffer a herniated disc in many places in the spine. The causes are given as below;
- Excessive strain or injury
- Disc material degenerates with age
- Weakness of ligaments that hold the disc
- Strain or twisting movements
- Overweight or excess weight
- Repetitive motions
- Lifting heavy objects
Signs and symptoms of a herniated disc can vary depending upon the ruptured disc’s size, location, and position.
- If the disc is not pressing the nerve, the patient feels lower backache and no pain.
- If the disc is pressing the nerve, then the patient feels;
- Numbness in the body where the nerve travels.
- Lumbar spine:Sciatica results from the herniated or ruptured disc in the lower back. Pressure on the several sciatica nervesshows;
- Numbness that emits from the buttocks into the legs
- Primarily, one side is affected
- Pain is sharp like an electric shock
- Pain increases while standing, walking, or sitting
- Straightening of the leg also makes the pain worse in the affected area
- Cervical spine:
Nerve compression in the neck causes sharp pain in between the shoulders. The pain moves down in the arm towards the fingers, and numbness and tingling occur in the shoulder or arm—the pain increases in certain positions.
When to see the doctor:
Herniated disc didn’t require any surgery. It improves with time, ranging from a few days to a few weeks. General guidelines are;
- Limit your activities but complete bed rest is not recommended.
- Take an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen.
- First aid such as physiotherapy is best to recover fastly without surgery.
- MRI is not recommended before the symptoms stay for six weeks.
- Refer to a spine specialist such as a neurosurgeon, if the symptoms remainfor more than four weeks.
- Urgent evaluation and imaging are recommended if the symptoms are;
- Leg or arm weakness
- Loss of feeling
- No control of urine
- Have a history of metastatic cancer
- Recent infection
Risk factors:The following factors increase the risk of a herniated disc;
- Weight:Excess body weight increases the stress or pressure on the lower back herniated disc.
- Occupation:Physically demanding jobs such as repetitive pulling, pushing, lifting, bending, and twisting can increase the risk of a herniated disc.
- Genetics:Herniated disc can also be caused by family history.
- Smoking: Smoking lessens the supply of oxygen to the disc, which causes them to break more quickly.
- Frequent driving:Seating for an extended period with continuous vibration of a motor vehicle can stress the discs.
- Being passive or inactive:Being inactive or having no physical activity makes you dull and causes many health problems. Regular exercise prevents you from diseases and herniated discs.
Following tips prevent you from the problems of back and herniated disc;
- Regular exercise
- Maintain good posture
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Quit smoking
- Eat a healthy and well-balanced diet
Test and diagnosis:
A common MRI and a plain x-ray of the affected area must perform to evaluate the vertebra.
Note:A plain x-ray cannot be used to see the herniated disc. CT-Scan, electromyograms, and myelograms are frequently used for initial diagnosis and evaluation.
- X-rays:In x-rays, radiations produce a picture of the body part, showing the structure of the vertebrae and the joints. A spine X-ray is obtained to check the potential causes of pain, i.e., infection, tumors, fractures, etc.
- CT-Scan:A computer tomography scan created a diagnostic image that can show the shape and size of the spinal canal and the structure around it.
- MRI: Magnetic resonance imaging is a diagnostic test that produces a 3D image of the body structure by powerful magnetic computer technology, which can show the spinal cord, nerve roots, and area surrounding it.
- Myelogram:An x-ray of the spinal cord by injecting the contrast material into the cerebrospinal fluid spaces can show the pressure on the spinal cord or nerves due to ruptured discs.
- Electromyogram and Nerve conduction studies:These tests measure the electrical impulse through nerve roots, peripheral nerves, and muscle tissue. It will determine the ongoing nerve damage.
- Non-surgical treatment:The initial treatment of herniated disc is non-surgical and conservative. A doctor may recommend the patient to perform low and painless activities for a few days to weeks. It will decrease spinal inflammation,whilebed rest is not recommended in this case.Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines treat the herniated disc if the pain is mild to moderate. An epidural steroid injection is injected into the spine under x-ray guidance to direct the medication to its exact place.
Doctors may recommend physiotherapy, which includes;
- Pelvic traction
- Gentle massage
- Ice and heat therapy
- Electrical muscle stimulation
- Stretching exercise
Painkillers and muscle relaxants may be good with physiotherapy.
- Surgery:If other treatments such as physiotherapy and medications do not work, doctors recommend surgery. Before surgery, the patient’s age, overall health, and other issues are taken under observation.
Many people relief from herniated disc after surgery, but there is no guarantee that surgery will help.If the following conditions are present in the patient, then he is considered a candidate for surgery;
- Pain limits regular activity or reduces the quality of life.
- Development of neurological deficiencies such as leg weakness or numbness.
- Feeling difficulty in walking and standing.
- Los of normal bladder functions.
- Medications and physiotherapy do not work.
- The patient has good health.
- Lumbar spine surgery:Lumbar laminotomy is a procedure used to relieve the leg pain and sciatica caused by a herniated disc. In this procedure, a small incision is done in the lower back area where the herniated disc is present. The incision is made in the skin, and the lamina may be removed, or muscles moved to the side. Spinal infusion is performed for disc stabilization after removing the disc through discectomy. While, in artificial disc surgery, a small incision is made in the abdomen, and a herniated disc is removed and replaced or restored with an artificial disc.
- Cervical spine surgery:In this procedure, a small incision is made from the front of theneck or back of the neck by the exact position of the herniated disc. A portion of the lamina is removed by laminotomy (removed herniated disc). After the disc is removed in anterior surgery, the spine needs stabilization.
- https://www.aans.org/en/Patients/Neurosurgical-Conditions-and-Treatments/Herniated-Discretrieved on April 21, 2022.
- https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/herniated-disk/symptoms-causes/syc-20354095retrieved on April 21, 2022.
- https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/12768-herniated-diskretrieved on April 21, 2022.