What Are The Symptoms
Symptoms of a herniated disc vary greatly depending on the location of the herniation and your own response to pain. If you have a herniated lumbar disc, you may feel pain that radiates from your low back area, down one or both legs, and sometimes into your feet . You may feel a pain like an electric shock that is severe whether you stand, walk, or sit. Activity such as bending, lifting, twisting, and sitting may increase the pain. Lying flat on your back with knees bent may be the most comfortable because it relieves the downward pressure on the disc.
Sometimes the pain is accompanied by numbness and tingling in your leg or foot. You may experience cramping or muscle spasms in your back or leg.
In addition to pain, you may have leg muscle weakness, or knee or ankle reflex loss. In severe cases, you may experience foot drop or loss of bowel or bladder control. If you experience extreme leg weakness or difficulty controlling bladder or bowel function, you should seek medical help immediately.
Herniated Discs: Understanding The Cause Of Your Back Pain And Discomfort
Living with back pain can be aggravating, especially when it appears that nothing you do helps. It could be that a herniated disc is the culprit of your pain and discomfort.
If this is the case, a physical therapist can help you feel better and even help the injured disc heal. If youre concerned about your back pain symptoms, please to schedule an appointment.
Pain And Related Symptoms
Lower back pain is the most common herniation symptom due to nerve irritation, possible muscle spasm, and inflammation.
Radiculopathy, related to abnormal signaling of the nerves, is also common. Symptoms include:
- Electric shock pain: Nerve pressure can cause abnormal sensations, commonly experienced as electric shock pains. For lumbar herniations, the shocks go down one or both legs.
- Tingling and/or numbness: Patients often have abnormal sensations such as tingling, numbness, or pins and needles down one or both legs.
- Muscle weakness: Nerve signals from the brain may be interrupted, causing lower-body muscle weakness.
- Bowel or bladder problems: These symptoms are important because they may signal cauda equina syndrome, a rare condition resulting from a herniated disc between the L5 vertebrae and the first vertebrae of the sacrum.
See a healthcare provider immediately if your back/leg pain is accompanied by problems urinating or having bowel movements, or you experience numbness around your anus. This is a medical emergency.
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How Can A Physical Therapist Treat Herniated Disc Pain
Physical therapy is regarded as the first line of defense in the treatment of herniated discs. A variety of examination tests and techniques can be used by your physical therapist to help clarify whats going on and identify any underlying factors that may have contributed to your disc herniation.
People with a limited range of motion in their hips or weak core muscles, for example, are more likely to develop herniated discs. We can address these types of contributing factors and help reduce your chances of recurring disc problems by identifying them.
Other common treatments for a herniated disc that your physical therapist may recommend include:
- Soft tissue massage
- Non-invasive techniques such as therapeutic ultrasound, electrical stimulation, biofeedback, cold and hot therapy, and diathermy can help you heal faster, reduce spasms and inflammation, and improve your mobility.
- Core strength and endurance, range of motion, and posture can all be improved with therapeutic exercises and stretches.
- Orthotics and other types of adaptive equipment like walkers or long-handled reachers to help improve skeletal alignment and make it easier to perform daily tasks
Research also suggests that even after a herniated disc heals, a person may still experience prolonged pain. This can happen if the nervous system becomes increasingly sensitive in an attempt to protect youand its something physical therapy can address through a technique known as therapeutic neuroscience education .
Herniated Discs Arent Easily Replaced But They Can Often Be Treated Without Surgery Check Out Some Of The Best Stretches And Exercises For Relieving Herniated Disc Symptoms
Try these stretches and exercises to shorten your recovery time from a herniated disc.
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Think of the cushioning discs between your vertebrae as your cars brake padsthey actually have more in common with shock absorbers, but stay with us. When your brake pads are wearing down and making that awful grinding noise, you just change them out if youre handy or have a mechanic do it if youre not.
Its not so easy with your back. Although disc replacement materials have become more advanced and the procedure less invasive and costly, its still surgery, and you want to avoid it if possible. So initially youll want to take a different track if your intervertebral discs become damaged or herniated, and that means exercise and stretching.
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Tips For Relieving Pain From Herniated Discs
Do you experience achy or sharp radiating pain to your shoulder, arm, buttock or leg? This may be an indicator of a bulging or herniated disc in the neck or back. Between each of the vertebrae that make up your spine are small cushions called discs.
Herniated discs are more common in the 30-50 age bracket. A herniated disc is when the material inside the disc pushes outwards, irritating the nerve exiting at that level. This can be on either side of the spine and depending on the nerve affected in the neck or back, can cause radiating pain, numbness and loss of sensation.
Most people are able to relieve their pain from a herniated disc using medications and physical therapy, with improvements seen in about four to six weeks. However, in cases where the pain is very severe, surgery may be used as a last resort treatment.
How Do Doctors Diagnose A Slipped Disc
If you have neck or back pain that doesn’t get better with home treatment, your doctor may order tests to find the cause of your pain.
- Magnetic resonance imaging : This device creates detailed images of a targeted area of your body. Doctors can use it to look at your spine and find any abnormalities.
- X-rays: Sometimes, asymptomatic herniated discs are discovered when you have an x-ray of your abdomen or back for a different reason.
- Computed tomography : This type of scan looks at the bones of your spine to find any issues.
- Myelogram: This test uses contrast dye to identify any narrowing of the spinal canal to find a herniated disc.
- Electromyogram: This test can help doctors pinpoint which nerves are affected by a herniated disc.
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Symptoms Of Disc Problems
The symptoms of an irritated disc can vary according to its location and severity. Back scans are often unhelpful for determining whether a persons back pain is coming from a disc issue, as discs change with aging and use. However, symptoms may include:
- back pain
- increased back pain when repetitively bending or with prolonged sitting
- increased back pain with coughing, sneezing, laughing or straining
- pain, numbness or pins-and-needles radiating into an arm or leg if a disc has caused irritation of a nearby nerve.
Risk Factors For Herniated Discs
When you see a physical therapist for back pain or herniated disc pain, they will assess you for risk factors known to be linked to herniated discs. Many of these are unpreventable but others are lifestyle habits, including:
- Age between 30 and 50
- Frequent bending, heavy lifting, or twisting
- Physically demanding occupation
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What Are The Complications Of A Slipped Disc
An untreated, severe slipped disc can lead to permanent nerve damage. In very rare cases, a slipped disc can cut off nerve impulses to the cauda equina nerves in your lower back and legs. If this occurs, you may lose bowel or bladder control.
Another long-term complication is known as saddle anesthesia. In this case, the slipped disc compresses nerves and causes you to lose sensation in your inner thighs, the back of your legs, and around your rectum.
While the symptoms of a slipped disc may improve, they also can worsen. If you cannot perform the activities you once could, its time to see your doctor.
Southern Cross Medical Library
The purpose of the Southern Cross Medical Library is to provide information of a general nature to help you better understand certain medical conditions. Always seek specific medical advice for treatment appropriate to you. This information is not intended to relate specifically to insurance or healthcare services provided by Southern Cross. For more articles go to the Medical Library index page.
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Ready To Get Back To A Normal Pain
Are you still struggling with the pains of a herniated disc? This kind of pain isnt going to relieve itself! Even if its not entirely clear whether you have a herniated disc, our services can still help.
Consult with SportsCare Physical Therapy today to get started on the path toward pain relief.
Can A Herniated Disc Heal On Its Own
A herniated disc doesnt actually heal on its own, but the pain does become less intense and can even go away entirely as the nerve becomes less irritated.
However, it will mean weeks and possibly even months of some fairly intense episodes of pain.
Your own immune response will treat the material that protrudes out of the disc as a foreign object and send an immediate response, usually inflammation, which is very painful. The water from inside the disc will be absorbed by the body and the disc will shrink in size.
Not only is this process lengthy, but it is painful as well. Chances are that you will never recover your full range of movement and your risk for developing another bulging or herniated disc is quite high since you did not take steps to prevent a reoccurrence.
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What Causes A Herniated Disc
A herniated disc is a painful condition that can also contribute to numbness or weakness. This condition can occur naturally over time due to degeneration or suddenly due to an injury. Some herniated discs heal naturally.
It is important to be examined by a healthcare provider if your pain continues for more than a few days. Sustained pressure on the spinal cord and nerves can lead to further damage.
Maintain A Healthy Weight
Excess weight can put a lot of strain on your spinal column. If you are overweight and wondering how to treat a herniated disc, taking measures to lose weight may help relieve your discomfort. Be sure to use healthy measures to get rid of excess pounds. If you need advice on how to maintain a healthy weight, your physical therapist may have recommendations for you.
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How To Know If You Have A Herniated Disc
Herniated discs do not always cause pain or other symptoms, as you may be surprised to learn. Surprisingly, a herniated disc can be detected on an MRI even if the average person has no symptoms.
If a herniated disc does cause symptoms, however, the consequences can be severe. The following are some of the most common herniated disc symptoms:
- Numbness and shooting pain in an arm or leg
- Arm or leg weakness and altered reflexes
- Tense and painful muscle spasms near the injured disc
- Pain that improves with certain movements but worsens with others
Consult a doctor, physical therapist, or other health professional to find out for sure whats causing your back pain.
Keep in mind that its not always possible to pinpoint exactly whats causing your symptoms. Thats fine, though: research shows that physical therapy treatment can be beneficial even when doctors are unable to provide an exact back pain diagnosis .
Herniated Disc Risk Factors
Depending on your family history, you could have a greater likelihood of experiencing a herniated disc.
Being overweight can increase the odds of straining or stressing the discs in your back.
Line of work
If your job demands intense physical activity with a lot of repetition and lifting, that can put you at higher risk for a herniated disc.
Tobacco smoking speeds up disc degeneration. Those who quit smoking are found to have less low back pain than those who continue to smoke, even when disc degeneration has already occurred.
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Other Causes Of Back Pain
There are other causes of back pain, so see your doctor if pain is strong, persistent or continues throughout the night. Other reasons for back pain include:
- muscular pain this is common, and usually does not spread into the legs. It is very likely to resolve on its own without the need for specific treatment
- fractures occur more commonly in:
- older people
- people with osteoporosis
- people taking medications that cause bone loss .
Fractures can also happen after direct injury or trauma to the back
- develop due to a person having increased soft tissue elasticity
- develop with increasing age.
How To Diagnose A Herniated Disc
Your doctor or chiropractor will need to do a physical exam, followed by some questions about where and when the pain started.
Imaging tests will need to be taken to confirm if you have a bulging disc or a herniated disc. Common imaging could include an MRI, X-rays, or CT scans.
This combination of information will allow your chiropractor or doctor to make a diagnosis about the root cause of your low back pain.
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What Is The Best Pain Management For A Herniated Disc
A herniated disc in the lumbar or cervical spine can lead to significant back pain. If the disc is pressing against a spinal nerve root, you may also have leg pain, numbness, weakness, and other symptoms. Some herniated discs cause you to feel pain thats severe enough to disrupt your daily life and normal activities.
The good news is that many herniated discs start to improve and heal within a few weeks. In the meantime, there are several treatments you can try to reduce pain and get back to your daily activities. Keep reading to learn the best at-home and doctor-prescribed pain management for a herniated disc.
How To Get Herniated Disc Relief
Herniated discs are very common, and the symptoms certainly arent pleasant. A lumbar herniated disc may cause sciatica pain, which is characterized as sharp, burning, or radiating pain from the lower back, through the buttock, and down the leg . In other cases, a herniated disc can cause dull or sharp pain in the neck or between the shoulder blades that radiates down the arm to the hand or fingers, and can cause numbness or tingling in the shoulder or arm.
The good news is that there are a few things you can do to relieve herniated disc pain. Here are several tips for herniated disc relief:
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What Are The Symptoms Of A Slipped Disc
You can have a slipped disc in any part of your spine, from your neck to your lower back. The lower back is one of the more common areas for slipped discs. Your spinal column is an intricate network of nerves and blood vessels. A slipped disc can place extra pressure on the nerves and muscles around it.
Symptoms of a slipped disc include:
- pain and numbness, most commonly on one side of the body
- pain that extends to your arms or legs
- pain that worsens at night or with certain movements
- pain that worsens after standing or sitting
- pain when walking short distances
- unexplained muscle weakness
- tingling, aching, or burning sensations in the affected area
The types of pain can vary from person to person. See your doctor if your pain results in numbness or tingling that affects your ability to control your muscles.
When Should You See Your Doctor
Most of the time, you can treat back pain at home without seeing a doctor. However, you should get medical advice if:
- Your pain is so severe that you can’t go to work or do basic self-care tasks.
- Your symptoms don’t get better after six weeks of home treatment.
- You can not walk or stand well.
- Your symptoms are getting worse.
- You lose control of your bladder or bowel movements.
- You have tingling, numbness, or weakness in your extremities. This could be a sign of another condition.
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Treatment For Disc Problems
- heat treatment
- gradually increasing activity levels within pain limits
- an exercise program designed to improve strength, flexibility and fitness
- a short-term trial of massage, spinal mobilisation or manual therapy
- non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or steroids
- pain-relieving medications, such as paracetamol.
Sciatica pain may be treated with an injection of anti-inflammatory steroids into the area of the affected spinal nerve. In severe cases of sciatica caused by a large disc protrusion, pain may be relieved by surgery to trim the protruding disc. This may be done to relieve pressure on the affected spinal nerve.
In severe cases of degenerative disc disease, surgery may be considered to remove the disc and fuse together the two vertebrae on either side.
However, severe cases of both sciatica and degenerative disc disease are uncommon.
Remember, most disc problems resolve without specific treatment.