The human spine is made of bony vertebrae that protect the spinal cord. Between each vertebra is a cushion-like structure called an intervertebral disc. These discs act as shock absorbers and allow your spine to move. When a disc becomes herniated, it can cause pain and discomfort. If you experience prolonged pain, you may need herniated disc surgery.
What Is a Herniated Disc?
A herniated disc, also known as a slipped or ruptured disc, occurs when the outer disc layer tears, allowing the soft inner layer to protrude. This protrusion can cause irritation and compression of nearby nerves, resulting in pain and discomfort.
Causes of a Herniated Disc
A herniated disc can occur for a variety of reasons, including:
- Age-related degeneration. As we age, the discs in our spine become less pliable, making them more susceptible to herniation.
- Trauma. An injury or accident can cause a disc to herniate.
- Repetitive stress. Jobs or activities that require repetitive bending or lifting can increase the risk of disc herniation.
- Obesity. Carrying excess weight can put pressure on the spine resulting in a herniated disc.
First-Line Treatments for a Herniated Disc
Initial treatment options for a herniated disc typically involve conservative measures, such as:
- Rest. Taking a break from activities aggravating the herniated disc can help reduce inflammation and pain.
- Medications. Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as Tylenol, aspirin, and ibuprofen, can help alleviate pain and inflammation.
- Physical therapy. A physical therapist can provide exercises that help relieve pain and strengthen the muscles supporting the spine.
- Heat and ice therapy. Applying heat or ice to the affected area can help reduce pain and inflammation by relaxing and soothing the area.
When Is Herniated Disc Surgery Necessary?
While most herniated discs can be treated with rest, medication, and physical therapy, surgery may sometimes be necessary. Some situations where surgery may be required include:
- Loss of bladder or bowel function. When a herniated disc damages the nerves that control bowel or bladder function, surgery may be necessary to avoid permanent damage that could impact a person’s quality of life.
- Progressive neurological deficits. If weakness or numbness in the spine worsens, surgery may be required to relieve the pressure on the nerves.
- Severe pain. If the pain from a herniated disc is significant and not responding to other treatments, surgery may be recommended to alleviate the pain and improve overall well-being.
- Large herniation. A large herniated disc causing significant nerve compression may require surgery to relieve the pressure on the nerve and prevent additional damage.
- Recurrent herniation. Surgery may be advised to prevent further recurrences and alleviate symptoms if a herniated disc has been treated conservatively and recurs.
Take Control of Your Back Pain Today
If you are experiencing back pain or suspect you may have a herniated disc, it’s important to seek medical attention. Your doctor can perform a physical exam and imaging tests to determine the cause of your pain and recommend the appropriate treatment.
In most cases, conservative measures, such as rest, medication, and physical therapy, can alleviate the symptoms of a herniated disc. However, in some cases, surgery may be necessary.
By taking care of your spine and seeking prompt medical attention, you can minimize the impact of a herniated disc on your quality of life and get back to the activities you enjoy. Don’t delay any further – schedule an appointment today!