What is a herniated disc?
Intervertebral discs reduce the pressure between the vertebrae. A herniated disc is the process by which their nuclei protrude into the spinal canal. This is due to the destruction of the annulus fibrosus: it normally surrounds the disc and evenly distributes pressure. If it collapses on one side, then the nucleus of the intervertebral disc comes out.
The pain, in this case, occurs due to pinching of the nerve roots near the vertebra. And due to the connection of nerve pain with the spinal cord, it does not concentrate in the damaged area of the back, but can also go to the arm or leg.
Symptoms of a herniated disc
Our spine consists of five sections: cervical, lumbar, thoracic, sacral and coccygeal. A hernia can occur only in the upper three parts of the spine. Depending on its location, a herniated disc can be accompanied by various symptoms. It can develop anywhere in the spine. The following symptoms indicate a hernia:
- aching pain in the limbs, shoulders, or chest;
- decreased mobility of the spine;
- decreased sensitivity and weakness in the muscles in the legs or arms;
- neurological disorders: headaches, insomnia, changes in blood pressure, weakness, dizziness;
- disorders of the genitourinary system and intestines.
What exactly appears from the herniated disc symptoms depends on where the hernia is located.
Herniated disc causes
Degenerative processes of intervertebral discs, like many other diseases of the spine, are caused by our unnatural position of the skeleton. The main causes are:
- injuries of various kinds;
- bodyweight is above normal;
- unsuccessful sharp turn of the body to the side;
- work related to lifting weights (loaders, builders, etc.);
- spending a lot of hours at the computer daily;
- spending more than two hours a day driving.
The lumbosacral region is most susceptible to the process of destruction: the entire mass of a person presses on it from above.
Herniated disc diagnosis
Diseases of the spine, including herniated lumbar disc or cervical herniated disc, are dealt with by an orthopedist and neurologist. You can also meet with other specialists: the neurosurgeon will conduct the operation if it is necessary. And with conservative treatment, you will be referred to a physiotherapist, massage therapist, and exercise therapy specialist.
Herniated disc treatment
After the MRI diagnostics, the doctor will offer you one of the ways of how to fix a herniated disc. The doctor, depending on the condition of your spine and the degree of the disease, can recommend one of the types of treatment: conservative or surgical. Small protrusions in the intervertebral discs are treated conservatively.
The best treatment for herniated disc is physiotherapy: massage, electrophoresis, manual therapy. Physiotherapy exercises, as well as the prophylactic use of a corset and a bandage to restrict mobility, proved to be excellent.
If the therapy has not brought any improvement for several months, then an operation is performed at any stage of the disease. If the disease has not been started, then rehabilitation will not take long.
FAQ about Nerve impingement and herniated discs
How do you tell the difference between a pinched nerve and a herniated disc?
A herniated disc can develop anywhere in the spine. You will define the placement of the problem depending on a site where there is a shooting pain. The painful feelings in this area may worsen during movement. In addition, the following symptoms indicate a hernia:
- painful feelings in shoulders, limbs or breast;
- decreased mobility of the spine;
- low sensitivity and weakness in leg and arm muscles;
- neurological conditions: headaches, vertigo, sleeplessness, changes in blood pressure;
- disorders of the functions of the genitourinary system and intestines.
What symptoms exactly will show up depends on where the hernia is located. Shoulder pain, numbness and weakness in the arms are a sign of damage to the cervical spine. You will suffer from troubles with the intestines and pelvic organs in case of having destruction of a herniated disc in the lower back. Numbness and pain in this case will spread to the hips, feet or legs completely.
The main symptom of sciatic nerve damage will be pain. These factors indicate the initial stage of pinching:
- drawing or burning pain that affects only part of the lower back, buttocks, back of the thigh;
- feeling creepy on the leg;
- increased discomfort when changing position, laughing, coughing, sudden movements;
- discomfort and pain while sitting and bending forward;
- a sharp limitation of the mobility of the legs and lower back.
The most important thing is to correctly determine the cause of the disease.
Which nerve is affected in disc herniation?
A herniated disc L3 – L4 affects the L4 spinal nerve. The main signs are: weakness of the knee reflex, pain, numbness and loss of sensation affect the front of the thigh. A herniated L4 – L5 disc affects the L5 spinal nerve. The main symptoms are: weakness in the muscles that lift the big toe and foot. It is difficult to resist standing on the heel. Pain, numbness and decreased sensitivity disturb the area from the lower back to the buttock and thigh.
A herniated disc L5 – S1 affects the S1 spinal nerve. The main signs are: weakness in the calf muscles. The patient experiences difficulties standing on the toes. Pain, numbness and decreased sensitivity are detected from the buttocks, then along the back of the thigh and lower leg, passing to the lateral surface of the foot and little toe.
What can be done for a bulging disc and pinched nerve?
Small protrusions in the intervertebral discs are treated conservatively. One of the variants is taking several medicines, including painkillers. However, the best known treatment for the initial form of a hernia is physiotherapy: massage, electrophoresis, manual therapy. Physiotherapy exercises, as well as the prophylactic use of a corset and a bandage to restrict mobility, also proved to be effective. If the therapy has not brought any improvement for several months, then at any stage of the disease, an operation is the only solution. If the disease is identified timely, then rehabilitation will not take long.
What is the fastest way to heal a herniated disc?
In general, methods of treating a herniated disc can be divided into two groups: surgical and non-surgical. In turn, non-surgical treatment can be medication and non-medication.
As for the first one, this method solves the problem radically: the hernia is removed surgically and the relief comes almost immediately. However, this method has many disadvantages. Experts note that only 2% of such operations are carried out without negative consequences. Therefore, it is better to use surgical intervention only if the situation is severe.
As for the second type of treatment a herniated disc, more and more doctors today prefer non-surgical methods. Drug treatment is not always effective, since it does not eliminate the cause of the disease, but only removes inflammation. Conservative methods include acupuncture and acupressure. The elimination of spicy and fatty foods will also contribute to the restoration of the intervertebral disc. Another method of non-surgical treatment of intervertebral hernia is kinesitherapy — treatment through movement, accompanied by the use of methods and forms of physical culture.