Most of us are alarmed at the thought of one of our body parts, herniating or bulging however this is a fairly common occurrence. Our bodies are quite adept at handling stress however sometimes, a single forceful stress or repeated smaller stresses cause the discs in our backs to yield. The severity of the condition determines course of treatment. Most often this is an injury like most others that the body is able to overcome and even heal on its own from. It usually simply needs help to heal efficiently without reinjury to the area. A herniated disk refers to a problem with one of the rubbery cushions (disks) between the individual bones (vertebrae) that stack up to make your spine and causes back pain. A spinal disk is a little like a jelly donut, with a softer center encased within a tougher exterior. Sometimes called a slipped disk or a ruptured disk, a herniated disk occurs when some of the softer “jelly” pushes out through a crack in the tougher exterior. A herniated disk can irritate nearby nerves and result in pain, numbness, back pain or weakness in an arm or leg. On the other hand, many people experience no symptoms from a herniated disk. Most people who have a herniated disk don’t need surgery to correct the problem.
The most common signs and symptoms of a herniated disk are: Arm Pain, Leg Pain, Back Pain, Numbness and Tingling, Extremity Weakness
Seek medical attention if your neck or back pain travels down your arm or leg, or if it’s accompanied by numbness, tingling or weakness.
Seek Immediate medical attention if you experience bowel or bladder changes associated with any of these other symptoms or a recent back injury
mainly avoiding painful positions and following a planned exercise and pain-medication regimen — relieves symptoms in 9 out of 10 people with a herniated disk.
OVER-THE-COUNTER PAIN MEDICATIONS
If your pain is mild to moderate, your doctor may tell you to take an over-the-counter pain medication, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen (Aleve, others).
If your pain doesn’t improve with over-the-counter medications, your doctor may prescribe narcotics, such as codeine or an oxycodone-acetaminophen combination (Percocet, Oxycontin, others), for a short time. Sedation, nausea, confusion and constipation are possible side effects from these drugs
NERVE PAIN MEDICATIONS
Drugs such as gabapentin (Neurontin, Gralise, Horizant), pregabalin (Lyrica), duloxetine (Cymbalta), tramadol (Ultram) and amitriptyline often help relieve nerve-damage pain. Because these drugs have a milder set of side effects than do narcotic medications, they’re increasingly being used as first line prescription medications for people who have herniated disks
Muscle relaxants may be prescribed if you have muscle spasms. Sedation and dizziness are common side effects of these medications.
Inflammation-suppressing corticosteroids may be given by injection directly into the area around the spinal nerves. Spinal imaging can help guide the needle more safely. Occasionally a course of oral steroids may be tried to reduce swelling and inflammation.
Physical therapists can show you positions and exercises designed to minimize the pain of a herniated disk. A physical therapist may also recommend:+
- Heat or ice
- Electrical stimulation
- Short-term bracing for the neck or lower back
A very small number of people with herniated disks eventually need surgery. Your doctor may suggest surgery if conservative treatments fail to improve your symptoms after six to twelve weeks, especially if you continue to experience:
- Numbness or weakness
- Difficulty standing or walking
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
In many cases, surgeons can remove just the protruding portion of the disk. Rarely, however, the entire disk must be removed. In these cases, the vertebrae may need to be fused together with metal hardware to provide spinal stability. It is still rare but increasingly, your surgeon may suggest the implantation of an artificial disk.