A Short Lesson In Anatomy:
Our spine is built up of bones called vertebrae. In between every vertebrae a small, spongy disc is located. The discs serves as natural shock absorbers, protecting our spine and allowing it to be more flexible.
What Is Herniated Disc?
When the disc get damaged or injured and bulges out of its original place, putting pressure to the surrounding nerve tissue, we call it disc herniation. This condition is also often called slipped disc or ruptured disc.
The result of this nerve irritation is a feeling of pain, tingling, weakness in muscles, numbness and, in more severe cases, temporary paralysis.
Now, even though this condition sounds severe, most of the time, no invasive operation procedure is necessary; it will heal on its own.
Though, it takes quite a bit of force for this to actually happen, in many cases it is a consequence of natural wear and tear processes going on in our body. You see, up to 60% of our body is water (Source: ga.water.usgs.gov) and as we grow older our intervertebral discs, along with the rest of our body, lose it and find it more difficult to perform their “daily duties.”
And even though it would take a fair amount of force to lead to this injury in normal circumstances, at older age herniated disc can occur more easily.
Of course, second common cause of disc herniation is injury. Since the disc is built up of two layers: outer, more durable which is holding the inner layer in place; when the injury occurs, that outer layer gets damaged and the inner, “jelly” substance pushes out. This is usually caused by two types of injuries:
- Sudden Strain and
- Repetitive strain
Sudden strain is,as the name suggests, is a very sudden increase in pressure to the structures of the spine. The sudden increase in pressure can be caused by violent twisting motion, accident (car accident or fall from great height), sport injury or something as benign as sneezing!
Repetitive strain is a strain done over and over again during a certain amount of time, leading up to the gradual deterioration of the disc and eventually ruptured disc. Activities leading up to it include poor lifting habits, repetitive motions (in sports for example), poor sitting habits, vibration etc.
First of all, I`d like to mention the fact that there are individuals without any symptoms of a herniated disc whatsoever. This happens when the injuries and ruptures are small and the inner “material” that pushes out is not putting any pressure to the surrounding structures of the back/spine.
That being said, the main symptom is pain, but the intensity of the pain will vary depending on the pressure to the neural structures themselves. Sometimes people can experience just a mild sense of tingling but in some cases the pain can be so severe it is debilitating.
Common activities such as laughing, coughing and excess strain when urinating and defecating will intensify it, giving you a clear sign that something is wrong and that you need t pay your doctor a visit. Don`t ignore those signs!
Slipped disc in the lumbar (lower back) region can cause pain felt even down your leg. Lumbar disc herniation will often cause severe pain radiating from your lower back and extending down your buttock, leg, all the way down to your foot, common signs of sciatica. Also, you might experience weakness in the muscles of the affected leg.
Disc herniation on the neck can be particularly dangerous just because of the number of important neural and cardiovascular structures in the area. In rare cases, a ruptured disc in the neck area can even led to paralysis.
Most common symptom of this condition is pain, felt around the armpit, shoulder blade, extending all the way down to your fingers, affecting one or two of them. It can also cause middle back pain so it can be miss diagnosed.
As I`ve mentioned before, in most cases the injury will heal on its own. Most people feel relief after just one month, but there are those who need to wait up to 5,6 months.
We`ve decided not to talk about any medication, we will leave that up to your doctor, but we can recommend some natural ways of treatment. The first line of defense if rest, followed by the application of ice. Note that too much rest will actually have a negative impact and may prolong the recovery process.
You should rest only if you are experiencing severe pain, otherwise continue with your daily activities, but make sure you pace yourself and don`t try anything silly. After all, you are injured and your body needs some time to heal.
After you get over the initial shock of injury and severe pain, you should consult your doctor and devise suitable exercise program you should follow to full recovery. Forgive me, for I will not recommend you any exercises simply because I am not aware of your particular condition.
Just be patient, listen to your doctor and hang in there!
If you read some of my previous article, you know that I put a lot of emphasis on prevention. These are some advises you can use to prevent future injury:
- Practice good posture – I recommend reading this article – http://helpyourback.org/health/good-posture-can-change-your-life
- Mind your weight – ” Weight Loss And Back Pain “
- Don`t smoke – ” Smoking And Back Pain “
- Exercise – ” Best Morning Exercise Routine “