Herniated Disk: Symptoms and Causes

Herniated Disk: Symptoms and Causes

Herniated Disk: Symptoms and Causes

Did you know that up to 5% of all people will have a slipped disc at some point during their lives? A slipped or herniated disc can cause a lot of pain, and really put your life at a standstill.

If you've never had slipped disc before, it can be a scary experience to go through. But don't worry, there are many treatment options available, and your symptoms will start to resolve before you know it.

It also helps to learn about the causes, symptoms, and treatments of a slipped disc so you know what to expect. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know!

Overview of a Slipped Disc

To better understand the symptoms and causes of a slipped or herniated disc, you'll need to learn more about what a slipped disc actually is.

The spinal column is made up of bones called vertebrae which are stacked on top of each other. The top seven bones of the column near your neck are referred to as the cervical spine. The next 12 are the thoracic spine, and finally, you have five that make up the lumbar spine or lower back.

Discs protect the vertebrae and act as cushions that absorb the shock from everyday activities like lifting and twisting motions and walking.

Discs have two parts, a soft inner portion, and a rough outer ring. When you have a slipped disc, the inner part of the disc protrudes through the outer ring.

Symptoms of a Slipped Disc

A slipped disc can occur anywhere from the neck to the lower back. Slipped discs can put pressure on the nerves, blood vessels, and muscles that are around them which can cause varying symptoms. The symptoms you'll typically notice include:

  • Pain and numbness on one side of the body
  • Pain that shoots to your legs or arms
  • Pain that gets worse with movement
  • Pain that gets worse with sitting or standing
  • Pain with walking even short distances
  • Muscle weakness
  • Tingling and burning sensations around the area of the slipped disc

Severely herniated discs in any area can cause problems with your bowel or bladder control, and weakness in your legs. If this occurs, you need to seek emergency medical assistance.

Causes of a Slipped Disc

Slipped discs occur when the outer ring on the vertebrae becomes weak or torn, which allows the inner cushion to slip out.

As you get older, the outer ring in your vertebrae can start to lose its protective cushion, so you're more likely to experience a herniated disc.

If you're overweight, it can put increased pressure on the discs to support the extra weight you're carrying leading to a herniated disc. Also, if you don't live an active lifestyle it can lead to weak muscles and eventually the development of a slipped disc.

Certain activities that involve you twisting and turning to lift heavy objects puts an increased strain on your lower back, which can cause a slipped disc to occur.

Finally, certain medical conditions like spinal stenosis or connective tissue disorders can cause disc herniation.

Diagnosing a Slipped Disc

Your doctor can check for a herniated disc by first performing a physical exam. They'll check you for areas of pain along your back as well as:

  • Your reflexes
  • Muscle strength
  • Your walking ability
  • If you have normal sensitivity to touch

Your doctor will also typically order a series of imaging tests such as an x-ray, MRI scan, CT scan, or a discogram. A discogram is a specialized imaging test used to evaluate back pain and is helpful in diagnosing a slipped disc.

Treatment Options for a Slipped Disc

With effective treatment, most people will recover from a slipped disc within 12 weeks. Treatment is a multi-step approach that includes:

Limiting Activities:
For the first two weeks, you'll need to rest and limit any activities that trigger pain. You'll want to avoid sitting too much and also limit activities that involve bending, twisting, and carrying heavy objects.

While light activities are recommended, you'll want to avoid strenuous exercise that involves running, jumping, or anything that causes you to have to bend your back significantly.

For pain relief, the first line of treatment is over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen or naproxen.

For severe pain, your doctor might prescribe opioid pain medication or a muscle relaxant. They might also prescribe medications to treat nerve pain.
You might also need epidural injections or spinal nerve injections which help to block the pain you're feeling.

Physical Therapy:
Your doctor might also recommend a course of physical therapy after 2 to 3 weeks of healing. Your physical therapist will teach you exercises that help strengthen your core abdominal and back muscles.

You'll also learn stretching and flexibility techniques to help ease any stiffness you're feeling. You also might have massage therapy or cold therapy such as having ice packs applied to the injured area.

Chiropractic Adjustments:
Chiropractic treatments are a safe and natural way to get you back to your normal routine after a slipped disc injury.

Chiropractic treatment addresses the overall function of your spine and determines what areas are out of alignment. You'll have an assessment of your spine to look for areas of stiffness and inflammation.

You'll have spinal manipulation (adjustments) to your spine to help ease the symptoms you're feeling.

Most of the time disc herniation improves with non-surgical treatment like chiropractic adjustments and physical therapy, but in severe cases, your doctor might recommend surgery. Common surgical treatments include:

  • Discectomy is when a surgeon removes all or a portion of a disc
  • Laminectomy involves having a part of your vertebrae removed
  • Spinal fusion involves fusing multiple vertebrae together
  • Disc replacement surgery replaces the damaged disc with an artificial disc

Get Chiropractic Care For Your Slipped Disc Today

A slipped disc can really disrupt your life, so you'll want the best treatment possible to get back to where you need to be.

It's time to turn to the professionals at Back In Motion in Raleigh, NC for help. We can create a custom treatment plan to treat your slipped disc and get you back into alignment. We can also help you with back pain, neck pain, headaches, sciatica, and much more.

We look forward to helping you take control of your health, so contact us today to schedule a free consultation!

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4601 Lake Boone Trail #1D
Raleigh, NC 27607
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