According to the American Chiropractic Association, it's estimated that around 80 percent of Americans will suffer from back pain at some point in their life. One of the most common issues is a herniated disc, and if you've ever suffered from this condition, you know how painful it can be to tackle the simplest task. If you or a loved one was recently diagnosed with a herniated disc, here are a few questions you might have:
What Exactly Is a Herniated Disc?
Your spinal cord is made up of two main components: the boney, individual vertebrae and the spongey discs that lie in between them. In addition to helping the spine maintain its proper alignment, the discs also act as a shock absorber. The entire column is also surrounded by a tough coating that protects the disc and vertebrae and keeps them in place.
When there is damage or a tear in the coating around your spinal cord, the jelly-like discs can break through. When this occurs you have a herniated disc. In the majority of cases, herniated discs occur because of disc degeneration. As a person ages, their spinal discs become less pliable, and this combined with a weakening of the spinal covering can lead to the herniated disc.
What Are the Symptoms of a Herniated Disc?
There are several tell-tale symptoms that can signal a herniated disc, including:
- Pain – Far and away, pain and discomfort are the most common symptoms of a herniated disc. The location of your pain will also coincide with the location of your herniated disc. For example, if you are suffering intense pain your arms and shoulders, the herniated disc occurred in your upper back. Pain in the shoulder or arms is a sign of a herniated disc in your lower back. Many times, patients with a herniated disc in their upper back and neck will also experience shooting pain in their arms and hands when they cough or sneeze.
- Weakness and tingling – In addition to pain, many individuals also suffer from weakness, numbness and a pins-and-needles feeling. These sensations occur because the nerves associated with the herniated disc are affected.
- Foot drop – Foot drop refers to an issue with lifting the foot when the patient is standing on the ball of the foot. This will cause the patient to actually drag their foot while walking.
What Are the Potential Treatment Options Available?
Suffering from a herniated disc is a common problem, and thankfully, there are several treatment options available. For individuals who are suffering only mild discomfort, your doctor may recommend avoiding strenuous activities and taking an over-the-counter pain reliever. For more severe cases, your doctor may prescribe a narcotic to control the pain.
Another effective treatment is called spinal decompression therapy. During this therapy, your doctor will utilize a traction table or another similar device to actually stretch out your spine. The goal of this therapy is to realign your spine, which not only repositions your herniated disc, but also relieves the nerve pain symptoms associated with this common condition. You can get services like this at places like the Hiler Chiropractic and Vax-D Decompression Center.
Finally, if your pain isn't being relieved by over-the-counter medications or spinal decompression therapy, your doctor might recommend surgery. During the procedure, the doctor will either remove the chunk of the disc that is protruding from your spinal column, and in the most severe cases, they might completely remove the disc.
A very common condition like a herniated disc doesn't have to lead to a life filled with discomfort and debilitating symptoms. If you suspect you are suffering from a herniated disc, don't hesitate to contact your doctor right away.