Herniated Disk

July 12, 2020


What Is A Herniated Disk?

Between each of your vertebrae (the bones that make up the spine and protect the nerves), there is a soft, flexible disc. These spinal discs give our backs flexibility, allowing us to bend and stretch, and also cushion the bones in the spine from rubbing again each other. As we get older the discs become less flexible, and therefore more susceptible to injury. A herniated disc occurs when the spinal disc ruptures, so part of the disc presses out beyond its normal boundaries.

Symptoms of a Herniated Disk?

Because the spinal disc is ruptured and out of place, the nerves that pass through the spinal column can be affected by a herniated disc. The bulging disc can pinch or compress the spinal cord and spinal nerves, interfering with the signals that are usually sent along with them. Symptoms of a herniated disc include:

  • An “electric shock” sensation that either originates in the neck and goes down the arms or starts in the lower back and goes down the legs;
  • Tingling, numbness, or a pins-and-needles sensation, especially in the limbs and extremities;
  • And muscle weakness, including weak grip, dropping objects, or feeling unstable when standing or walking.

What Causes a Herniated Disk?

Many things can cause a herniated disc. An injury, like a bad fall or a car accident, can suddenly damage a disc. The injury can also be caused by repetitive stress that gradually strains the spinal discs over time until it finally gives way. Certain conditions make it more likely for a herniated disc to occur, such as spinal stenosis (which causes the space around the spinal cord to become more narrow) and degenerative disk disease (arthritis of the vertebral bodies).

Treatment Options for a Herniated Disk?

After a herniated disc has been diagnosed, the first step is to give it adequate rest and change the types of activities you engage in to prevent making the condition worse. Applications of alternating ice and heat can be helpful to relax muscles and reduce pain and inflammation, as can anti-inflammatory drugs.

For long-term improvement, the most common and least intrusive treatment option is exercise therapy. While surgery might be recommended in severe cases, in most situations stretching exercises that avoid straining the area around the herniated disc but strengthen the rest of the muscles around the spine are reasonable treatment options. This will help stabilize the spine, take some stress off the herniated disc, and improve overall back health.

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