A herniated disk is an injury of the backbone (spine). A spine consists of a series of bones stretching from the base of the skull to the tailbone. Between the vertebral bones, round cushion-like structures are present. These are called discs. Discs act as buffers between the bones facilitating movements such as bending. When one of the disks ruptures or tears, it's termed a herniated disc.
People aged between 30 to 50 are more likely to get a herniated disc. Men are more prone to this condition as compared to women. Herniated discs are the main cause of arm, neck, back or leg pain (sciatica). Generally, herniated discs occur in the lower back or neck. But, they can happen anywhere in the spine.
Symptoms of disc herniation
The symptoms of disc herniation depend on where the problem is located in the spine. Symptoms get better with rest and worsen with movement.
A herniated disc in the lower back or lumbar region cause "sciatic nerve" pain. This pain radiates from one side of the buttocks into the leg or foot. The symptoms for herniated discs in the lower back include,
Numbness or tingling in the legs or feet.
Symptoms of herniated cervical discs include,
Pain near the shoulder blades.
Pain traveling to the shoulder, arm, hand and fingers.
Pain at the back and sides of the neck.
Pain due to movements such as bending or turning.
Tingling or numbness in arms.
Muscle weakness due to weakening of nerves.
Difficulty in holding or lifting objects.
Types of disc herniation
There are three types of herniated discs.
Disc protrusion- The condition is also known as "bulging discs". They occur when pressure exists between vertebrae that cause discs to bulge out or protrude outwards. The pain due to disc protrusion often gets unnoticed. However, the pain associated is generally mild.
Disc extrusion- A non-contained herniation is also called a disc extrusion. These extrusions cause severe back pain. They are also associated with tingling and numbness in the extremities as they cause pain in the surrounding nerves.
Sequestered herniation- When disc extrusions go unnoticed or untreated, they cause a sequestered herniation. In this condition, the vertebrae compress discs so forcefully that they rupture them.
Risk factors of disc herniation
Factors leading to lumbar disc herniation include,
Age- The condition can occur in people 35 to 50 years of age. It causes symptoms after 80 years.
Gender- Men are at higher risk of getting disc hernia as compared to women.
Physical work- Jobs that demand high physical labour or heavy lifting increase the risk of disc herniation. Constant pushing, pulling, and twisting can also add to the risk.
Obesity- Excess weight increases the risk of herniated discs. After microdiscectomy surgery, the patient is 12 times more likely to develop the same disc hernia again. Extra weight increases pressure on the spine leading to herniation.
Smoking- Nicotine restricts the blood flow in spinal discs. It increases the rate of disc degeneration and inhibits healing. A degenerated disc can tear and crack easily causing a hernia.
Family history- A patient can have a disc hernia if someone from his family had the condition.
Diagnosis of disc herniation
At CARE Hospitals, we provide the following ways for diagnosing disc hernia.
X-Rays- These do not detect the herniated discs, but determine the root cause of the condition such as a tumour, broken bone, infection or spinal alignment issues.
CT Scan- A CT Scan takes X-rays from different directions and combines them to form images of the spinal cord and the surrounding structures.
MRI- Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI uses radio waves and strong magnetic fields to form images of internal structures of the body. This test can be used to determine the exact location of a herniated disc. Further, also detect affected nerves.
Myelogram- Before taking X-rays, a dye is injected into the spinal fluid. This test shows the pressure on the nerves or spine due to multiple herniated discs or other medical conditions.
Nerve tests- Nerve conduction studies and electromyograms help to know the rate of conduction of electrical impulses along a nerve. This detects the location of nerve damage.
Nerve conduction study- In this test, electrodes are placed on the skin to measure the electrical nerve impulses and functioning of nerves and muscles. The study measures electrical impulses in the nerve when a small current is applied.
Electromyography- In this test, the doctor inserts a needle electrode in the muscles through the skin. It evaluates muscle activity during contraction, relaxation and at rest.
Treatment of disc herniation
People diagnosed with a disc hernia should refer to a doctor specializing in orthopaedic surgery, physical medicine and rehabilitation or neurosurgery. At CARE Hospitals, we have well-qualified medical practitioners who can help to treat disc hernia through the following ways,
Over-the-counter pain medications- In the case of mild to moderate pain, medications are helpful.
Injections are given in the spinal area for relief.
Muscle relaxers are prescribed to the patients having muscle spams.
2. Therapy- Physical therapy can help to reduce pain by suggesting accurate positions and exercises. 3. Surgery- Patients with severe disc hernia end up with surgery. Surgery is suggested when conventional treatments fail to reduce symptoms after 6 weeks. Patients can continue to have poorly controlled pain, difficulty in walking or standing, weakness, numbness, loss of bowel control.
Generally, surgeons remove only the protruding part of the disc. However, in rare cases, the entire disc is removed. In such cases, a bone graft is used to connect the vertebrae.
How can CARE Hospitals Help?
People suffering from disc hernias require immediate medical assistance to avoid complications. Therefore, we at CARE Hospitals provide 24-hour medical support to the patients so they can get timely treatment. We provide comprehensive care through personalized treatment options and minimally invasive procedures. We have the best medical staff that provide care and assistance after surgery so our patients can recover fast and get back to their lives.
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