Let’s discuss the anatomy of the spine to learn more about a herniated disk.
The spine is made up of 33 vertebrae, each with a disk in between to act as a cushion or a shock absorber and to prevent the vertebrae from rubbing against each other. The outer layer of a disk is called the annulus which is a tough fibrous tissue that attaches between each vertebra. Each disk also has a gel-filled center called the nucleus. The nerves branch out from the spinal cord and run through the body. These nerves send signals or impulses back and forth from the brain all throughout the body controlling movements, sensation, and pain.
A herniated disk occurs when the nucleus pushes through a weak or torn section of the tough outer layer and compresses on a nerve(s).
Compression on the nerves can cause pain, tingling sensations, numbness, and even weakness. If the herniated disk is in the neck then you may experience these symptoms from the shoulder and down into the hands. If the herniated disk is in the low back you may experience these symptoms from the hips down into the feet. An MRI is usually done to confirm diagnosis.
Most of the time, it is caused by a gradual onset and wear and tear on the spine. As we age, our disks degenerate and lose some of the water content that keeps them flexible and healthy. All the surrounding structures weaken over time i.e. muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The less flexible and weaker they are the more likely they are going to tear or rupture with a minor strain to the spine. Sometimes trauma can cause a ruptured disk depending on the severity.
- Obesity – causes added stress to the spine that may result in a herniated disk.
- Genetics – some people are more prone to developing the issue.
- Occupation- Physical jobs that require repetitive bending, lifting, and pushing, pulling, and twisting can increase your risk.
Depending on the severity of the rupture and the pain level several things can be done. Your doctor may prescribe non-steriodal anti-inflammatory medication and advise to take it easy for a few days. An epidural injection can be done to decrease pain and inflammation.
Physical Therapy is prescribed to help regain strength and flexibility in surrounding structures in order to support the spine and prevent further injury. Pt is also instructed in proper bending and lifting mechanics to avoid future injuries. Modalities such and ice, heat, and Electrical stimulation may be used as well to decrease pain, soreness, and inflammation.
If the above conservative treatments do not decrease symptoms, then surgery may be an option. Although there are several risk factors with doing any spinal surgeries and will be discussed between surgeon and patient. Surgery is not guaranteed to help everyone and every case.
If you are having back pain or have been diagnosed with a ruptured or herniated disk, please come see us for a free consultation to see how we can assist you in your recovery. To request an appointment, click here, or call directly to one of our three locations during regular business hours:
Cool Springs: 615-224-9810
Spring Hill: 931-489-2022