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What Is A Herniated Disc In Your Lower Back

Common Symptoms Of A Herniated Disc

Herniated Disc in the Lower Back

While most herniated discs occur in the lower back, they also can occur in the cervical area. Symptoms are dependent on where the disc is located and whether or not its compressing a nerve.

Typically, one side of the body is affected. You may experience arm or leg pain, tingling, or numbness or weakness. If the herniated disc is located in the back, youll likely experience pain in the buttocks, thigh, and calf.

If its located in the neck, youll likely experience pain in the arm and shoulder. The pain with a herniated disc can be sharp. Pain, numbness, and tingling can radiate to other parts of the body, too.

Keep in mind that you can have a herniated disc with no symptoms.

Signs Of A Herniated Disk

One sign may be where the pain is. Although herniated disks can happen in any part of your spine, they are most common in the lower part of your backbone , just above your hips. The pain may spread from your back to your buttocks, thighs, and even to your calves.

Discomfort from a herniated disk usually gets worse when you’re being active and lessens when you’re resting. Even coughing, sneezing, and sitting can worsen your symptoms because they put pressure on pinched nerves. A herniated disk also can give you a feeling of tingling or numbness. The affected part of your back may also feel weak.

Age also plays a role. As you get older, your disks tend to break down and lose their cushioning. That makes a herniated disk more likely.

Other Terms For Herniated Disc: Slipped Disc Ruptured Disc

A herniated disc may be referred to by many names, such as a slipped disc, or a ruptured or bulging disc. The term slipped disc can cause confusion since spinal discs are firmly attached to the vertebrae and do not slip or moverather, it is just the gel-like inner material of the disc “slips” out of the inside.

Another common term for a herniated disc is a pinched nerve. This term describes the effect the herniated disc material has on a nearby nerve as it compresses or “pinches” that nerve.

A lumbar herniated disc may also be described in reference to its main symptoms, such as sciatica, which is caused by the leaked disc material affecting the large sciatic nerve. When a nerve root in the lower back that runs into the large sciatic nerve is irritated, pain and symptoms may radiate along the path of the sciatic nerve: down the back of the leg and into the foot and toes.

Sciatica may also be referred to by its main medical term, radiculopathy.

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Wait What Exactly Is A Herniated Disc

A herniated disc, sometimes called a slipped disc or ruptured disc, is one of the leading causes of neck, back and leg pain. It can happen anywhere along the spine with any of the 23 intervertebral discs, but herniated discs occur most often in the lower back.

When you herniate a disc, essentially the inner, gel-like portion of the structure bulges out of the tough outer exterior that is your spinal cord, pressing against and pinching sensitive nerves. The discs are important because they act as shock absorbers for the spinal bones, necessary for day-to-day life.

In my time as a neurosurgeon at an academic institution, Ive seen a spectrum of herniated disc symptoms depending on the severity of the ruptured disc from severe pain, to bladder or bowel dysfunction but today, well be going over the most common warning signs to help you ensure youre listening to your body.

So, if youre wondering how do I tell if I have a herniated disc?, keep reading.

What Causes Lumbar Disk Disease

7 Herniated Disc Exercises For Lower Back (Lumbar Area)

Lumbar disk disease is caused by a change in the structure of the normal disk. Most of the time, disk disease happens as a result of aging and the normal break down that occurs within the disk. Sometimes, severe injury can cause a normal disk to herniate. Injury may also cause an already herniated disk to worsen.

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Causes Of A Bulging Disc

Like a herniated disc, the most common cause of a bulging disc is degenerative disc disease. A bulging disc may also be caused by neck or back strain brought on by repetitive movements, lifting heavy objects, and poor posture. This condition can also be caused by trauma such as a blow to the back, although this is rare.

  • Wear and tear caused by degenerative disc disease
  • Strain due to heavy lifting and repetitive movements
  • Poor posture while standing or sitting
  • A hereditary condition

How Are Slipped Discs Treated

Treatments for a slipped disc range from conservative to surgical. The treatment typically depends on the level of discomfort youre experiencing and how far the disc has slipped out of place.

Most people can relieve slipped disc pain using an exercise program that stretches and strengthens the back and surrounding muscles. A physical therapist may recommend exercises that can strengthen your back while reducing your pain.

Taking over-the-counter pain relievers and avoiding heavy lifting and painful positions can also help.

While it may be tempting to refrain from all physical activity while youre experiencing the pain or discomfort of a slipped disc, this can lead to muscle weakness and joint stiffness. Instead, try to remain as active as possible through stretching or low-impact activities such as walking.

If your slipped disc pain does not respond to over-the-counter treatments, your doctor may prescribe stronger medications. These include:

  • muscle relaxers to relieve muscle spasms
  • narcotics to relieve pain
  • nerve pain medications like gabapentin or duloxetine

Your doctor may recommend surgery if your symptoms do not subside in six weeks or if your slipped disc is affecting your muscle function. Your surgeon may remove the damaged or protruding portion of the disc without removing the entire disc. This is called a microdiskectomy.

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Can A Herniated Disc Cause Lower Back Pain

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What Is A Herniated Disk

Sciatica Causes: Herniated Disc Tests For Lower Back Pain

A herniated disk is an injury of the spine . You have a series of bones in your spine, stretching from the base of your skull to your tailbone. Between your vertebrae are round cushions called disks. The disks act as buffers between your bones, allowing you to bend and move with ease. When one of these disks tears or leaks, its called a herniated disk.

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Stretch Lower Back Pain Herniated Disc Symptoms

Do not rest sagged in your desk chair all day. Get up every 20 mins or so as well as stretch the various other way. Since the majority of us spend a lot of time bending forward in our tasks, it is essential to stand and also stretch backward throughout the day. Do not fail to remember to additionally extend your legs. Some individuals discover remedy for their neck and back pain by doing a routine stretching regular, like yoga. Lower Back Pain Herniated Disc Symptoms

Lumbar Herniated Disc Symptoms Are Usually Short

While a lumbar herniated disc can be extremely painful, for most people the symptoms are not long-lasting.

About 90% of people who experience a lumbar herniated disc will have no symptoms six weeks later, even if they have had no medical treatment.1

Experts believe the symptoms from a lumbar herniated disc may resolve themselves for three reasons:

  • The body attacks the herniation as a foreign material, shrinking the size of the herniated material and reducing the amount of inflammatory proteins near the nerve root.
  • Over time, some of the water from inside the disc is absorbed into the body, causing the disc to shrink. The smaller disc is less likely to extend into nerve roots, causing irritation.
  • Lumbar extension exercises may move the herniated area away from the spinal discs. Whether exercise can accomplish this is a matter of debate in the medical community.

In general, it is thought that the symptoms get better because the smaller size of the herniated material reduces the likelihood it will irritate the nerve root.

Although a lumbar herniated disc usually triggers attention when it becomes painful, medical research has found it is common for people to have a lumbar disc herniation in their lumbar spine, but no associated pain or other symptoms.2

It is for this reason that care must be taken in the diagnosis to be sure a herniated lumbar disc is causing the problem.

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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.

Is A Herniated Disc The Root Of Your Back Pain

Herniated Discs Can Be a Real Pain in the Back

A herniated disc refers to an issue with one of the rubbery cushions that are in between the vertebrae. A spinal disc has a soft jellylike interior with a tougher exterior.

Strange neck pains, back pains, or extremity symptoms can indicate a variety of potential problems including one or more herniated discs. How can you tell for sure whether you have this specific problem? If you do have a herniated disc, what can you do about it? These questions dont have to add confusion and frustration to your physical woes.

Fortunately, if your back pain is caused by a herniated disc, physical therapy can help. Contact Back to Work Physical Therapy today to learn more.

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When & How To Seek Medical Care

Fortunately, the majority of herniated discs do not require surgery. With time, the symptoms of sciatica/radiculopathy improve in approximately 9 out of 10 people. The time to improve varies, ranging from a few days to a few weeks.

General Guidelines

  • Limit activities for 2 to 3 days. Walking as tolerated is encouraged, along with an anti-inflammatory, such as ibuprofen, if not contraindicated for the patient. Bedrest is not recommended.
  • Primary care evaluation during this time may lead to considering other non-surgical treatments noted below, such as physical therapy.
  • Radiographic imaging, such as an MRI, is not recommended by the American College of Radiology, unless symptoms have been present for six weeks.
  • Referral to a spine specialist, such as a neurosurgeon, is also recommended if symptoms persist for greater than four weeks. A specialist will often want advanced imaging, such as the MRI, completed prior to the appointment.
  • Urgent evaluation and imaging is recommended if there are symptoms of significant leg/arm weakness, loss of feeling in the genital/rectal region, no control of urine or stool, a history of metastatic cancer, significant recent infection or fever AND radiculopathy or a fall/injury that caused the pain. Imaging should also be considered earlier for findings of progressive neurologic deficit on exam.

How Is A Diagnosis Made

When you first experience pain, consult your family doctor. Your doctor will take a complete medical history to understand your symptoms, any prior injuries or conditions, and determine if any lifestyle habits are causing the pain. Next a physical exam is performed to determine the source of the pain and test for any muscle weakness or numbness.

Your doctor may order one or more of the following imaging studies: X-ray, MRI scan, myelogram, CT scan, or EMG. Based on the results, you may be referred to a neurologist, orthopedist, or neurosurgeon for treatment.

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How Are Slipped Discs Diagnosed

Your doctor will first perform a physical exam. They will be looking for the source of your pain and discomfort. This will involve checking your nerve function and muscle strength, and whether you feel pain when moving or touching the affected area. Your doctor also will ask you about your medical history and your symptoms. They will be interested in when you first felt symptoms and what activities cause your pain to worsen.

Imaging tests can help your doctor view the bones and muscles of your spine and identify any damaged areas. Examples of imaging scans include:

  • MRI scans
  • discograms

Your doctor can combine all these pieces of information to determine what is causing your pain, weakness, or discomfort.

What Is A Back Sprain

How to Fix a Bulging Disc in Your Lower Back | RELIEF IN SECONDS!

Back sprains occur when one of the ligaments that hold the bones of the lower back together over stretches. In severe cases, this stretching can result in a tear of the ligament. While there is overlap in the way you can manage pain caused from both, a backsprain differs from back strains in that a strain involves either the muscles or tendons of the lower back, not the ligaments.

Lumbar muscle strains are likely to occur during physical activity. They happen as a result of the muscles in the lower back pulling in a strange position. Strains may come about slowly as a result of overuse. By contrast, sprains are typically caused by sudden trauma like accidents, heavy impacts, falls, and intense twisting of the lower back. These events may cause your ligaments to stretch beyond their natural capacity, resulting in a sprain. You will likely feel a popping sensation if a sprain occurs. Symptoms of a lower back sprain include:

  • Pain that gets worse with movement
  • Muscle tightness and cramps
  • Limited range of motion in the affected joint

In many cases, the pain associated with sprains will subside as the ligament heals, though this may be a lengthy process.

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The Symptoms Of A Herniated Disk

Your spine is divided into five regions.

  • Cervical
  • Thoracic
  • Lumbar
  • Sacrum
  • Coccyx

A herniated disk is most likely to occur in the cervical or lumbar regions of your spine.

Herniated disk symptoms run the gamut from asymptomatic to mild to severe and debilitating. Regardless of where you are in the progression of your herniated disk, if the treatments you are receiving arent working, its time to consider a surgical approach.

How Is Lumbar Disk Disease Diagnosed

In addition to a complete medical history and physical exam, you may have one or more of the following tests:

  • X-ray. A test which uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging . A procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.

  • Myelogram. A procedure that uses dye injected into the spinal canal to make the structure clearly visible on X-rays.

  • Computed tomography scan . An imaging procedure that uses X-rays and computer technology to produce horizontal, or axial, images of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.

  • Electromyography . A test that measures muscle response or electrical activity in response to a nerves stimulation of the muscle.

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How Long Does Physical Therapy Take For A Herniated Disc

The initial treatments that a PT utilizes in the acute stages of a disc herniation may provide some immediate symptom relief, but it can take some time before physical therapy leads to significant and lasting improvement.

One study found improvements in pain and overall function after six weeks of physical therapy for a lumbar disc herniation. That said, the improvements did not equal those of surgical intervention until the 12-week mark.

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