In between each of your vertebrae is a small spongy disc that absorbs the shocks placed on it during your everyday life. These discs not only help prevent damage to the vertebrae but also help your spine bend and flex. When one of these jelly donut-shaped discs get damaged, it can reduce the disc’s effectiveness at preventing damage and keeping your spine flexible. When damage does occur an orthopedic spine physician may call it a herniated, slipped, or ruptured disc but it means the same thing: the jelly part of the disc bulges out to the surface. Almost any disc in your spine can become herniated, but they occur most often in the lumbar, or lower, area of the spine.
What’s Behind A Herniated Disc?
As you age your discs may become less flexible and even start to dry out due to the wear that occurs over time. Of course typical wear and tear is not the only cause of herniated discs. Injury is a very usual cause of a bulging disc. Injuries occur commonly when a person attempts to lift a heavy object with their back muscles instead of their legs. If a person twists their back while also lifting a heavy weight improperly, it greatly increases their chances of injuring the discs in their back. In really rare instances, falling or an impact, like a high-speed rear-end car accident, may impart enough force to cause a herniated disc.
An Aching Back Isn’t The Problem
Counter intuitively a herniated disc doesn’t usually cause back pain. The bulging of the disc sometimes doesn’t cause any symptoms at all, which means a person may not even know that they have herniated a disc. When symptoms are felt there are some that are fairly common. The symptoms themselves are actually caused by the damaged disc putting pressure on the nearby nerves of the spinal column. The pressure on those nerves can cause a variety of symptoms including:
- Pain In The Extremities – Depending on the location of the herniated disc the pain may in the upper or lower extremities. Pain in the shoulder or arm is common when the affected disc is in the neck. When the damaged disc is in the lumbar area, the pain may be felt anywhere from the lower leg all the way up the buttocks.
- Weak Muscles – Nerve impairment can actually cause the muscles that are controlled by the affected nerves to become weaker.
- Numb Or Tingly Feeling – Commonly people with a herniated disc may feel a tingly or numbness in the extremities that are served by the affected nerves.
Treating A Herniated Disc
If you suspect that you have a herniated disc it is important to get a diagnosis from an experienced orthopedic spine physician, like the ones at IBJI. The doctor will be able to properly diagnose, usually with the aid of an MRI, and then treat your condition in the best way possible. Treatments that may be prescribed can include physical therapy, medication, or even surgery in the most severe cases. To start your treatment, make an appointment with one of the physicians at the Illinois Bone and Joint Institute. Our physicians are the best choice for orthopedic spine care in the Midwest.
This information is not intended to provide advise or treatment for a specific situation. Consult your physician and medical team for information and treatment plans on your specific condition(s).