The condition Herniated Disc occurs when a tear in the outer fibrous ring or vertebral disc in the back is brought about by degeneration or injury and the softer central portion tries to push out of the tear. This affects the spine irritating the nearby nerves resulting in pain, weakness or numbness. Without quick and proper care, this can result in nerve loss.
Odd as it may sound, not all people notice the problem as the symptoms depend on the positioning of the disc and the size and extent of the problem. Following are some symptoms:
- If disc is not pressing on a nerve there can be pain in the lower back especially for lumbar discs.
- If the disc is pressing on a nerve then there might be numbness in arms and legs.
- Lumbar hernia often leads to Sciatica. Sciatica is the pain that travels through the buttocks right down to your legs into the foot.
- In case of upper back herniated disc the shoulders, chest and arms might go numb.
What Are The Treatments?
The primary goal to achieve in treatment is relieving the pain of the herniated disc. This is done based on the history, severity and symptoms exhibited by the patient and separate treatment plans are required for each patient. Non-Surgical treatments like physical therapy, pain medications, local injections of cortisone (epidural injection), anti-inflammation medication or muscle relaxants are first tried to relieve the pain and sometimes a combination of different treatments are required. The medications also help the patient in adapting to physical therapy and chiropractic care.
If after four to six weeks of non-surgical treatment there is not much improvement then surgery is usually the way to go. Tests like Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Myelogram or Computed Tomography Scan (CT scan) are done to ensure the proper surgical technique. The surgical methods are:
- Disectomy: It is the surgical removal of the herniated disc material pressing on the root of the nerve or spinal cord. This surgery is little effective for those who didn’t get good results from the non-surgical treatment.
- Percutaneous Disectomy: It is done on the bulging discs that have not ruptured yet. Using a special tool a small incision is made in the back through which the herniated disc tissue is removed. Being less effective, this surgery is not in vogue now-a-days.
- Laminotomy: This surgery helps in relieving the pain by removing a portion of the vertebrate that forms the protective lamina (arch) of the spinal cord.
- Microdiskectomy: It is the latest and most effective procedure. This surgery requires a very small incision, barely 1” to 1.5” through in which the back muscles are removed. The injured disc tissue is then removed. This surgery does not affect the posture of the body in any way.
Though long-term merits and demerits of this treatment are less known but to date Microdiskectomy is one of the effective treatments available for herniated disc.
If pain is not severe you can relieve the pain by applying a heat pad on the affected area and avoiding sitting or standing for too long. If required consult a Chiropractor in coordination with your doctor. If the pain is mild you can take OTC medications like Ibuprofen or Naproxen. Stay strong and you will definitely lead a pain free life going forward.