Diagnosis is the First Step in Treating Herniated Disc

Herniated Disk - Woman holding her back in pain

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What is a Herniated Disc?

A herniated disc occurs when the soft, cushioned layer between vertebrae begins to bulge reducing the cushioning effect of the disc. The structure of our spinal column is built up in a sequence that repeats. That sequence is vertebra, disc, and vertebra. The disc is a fluid/gel filled sac that prevents two vertebrae from touching. When herniation occurs, the ability of the disc to cushion two adjacent vertebrae is significantly compromised. The range of symptoms is dependent upon the degree in which the disc has herniated. Symptoms may be mild or severe. Herniation can occur as a natural part of the aging process. It can also occur as the result of trauma. Automobile accidents, lifting heavy objects, and even athletic injuries can cause discs to herniate.

What does a Herniated Disc Feel Like?

Because the disc is no longer contained, but is bulging forth, it can cause pressure on nerves, which can cause symptoms that feel like sciatica, pinched nerve, or even numbness, tingling, and or pain. Sometimes the herniation is visible as a bulge in the skin along the spine. The sensation can be mild or debilitating. The symptoms depend on how badly the disc is herniated and what it may be pressing against. According to WebMD, symptoms range from sciatica, tingling, numbness, pain and even severe pain. Symptoms may also cause the person to be incontinent of bowel and bladder. It may cause weakness in the extremities to the degree that the person can no longer walk or carry objects. Damage to the discs may be sudden, or it may be an injury that you have lived with for a long while. If you suffer from even slight back pain it is better to be diagnosed, than to live with the chance of increased pain or physical limitations.

How to Heal a Herniated Disc

This is a syndrome that may be caused by accident or by the natural aging process.Degenerative Disc Disease may or may not require surgery. Some patients do fine with epidural injections, which help to control inflammation and reduce pain. Sometimes the situation may require discectomy or disc replacement, or even spinal fusion. The key to determining treatment is diagnosis. A proper diagnosis will allow you and your doctor to determine the best plan of action for you and your condition. The Mayo Clinic suggests  conservative treatment, such as physical therapy,  may help to strengthen the surrounding muscles. Even braces might help to reduce the pain. Even if conservative treatment helps to eliminate the pain it is important that people with back pain have their situation diagnosed. A small problem is easier to fix than a major medical emergency.

Howard B. Cotler, MD, FACS, FAAOS

Gulf Coast Spine Care

1200 Binz St.

Houston, TX 77004‎

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