What is herniated disc?

Herniated disc (also known as slipped disc) is a condition characterized by wear of tear of the intervertebral disc that separates successive vertebra on the spine. The spine is made up of bones each cushioned by a disc which protects them against brushing against each other while lifting heavy objects, walking or twisting.

Herniated Disc Symptoms
Herniated Disc Symptoms

Another common cause that has been favored by several authors is degenerative disc disease.

Degenerative disc disorders cause the nucleus pulposus (jelly-like center of the disk) and annulus fibrosus (flexible outer ring of the disk) to be prolapsed thus exposing them to load pressure which leads to the tear or wear of the disc. Other conditions that may bring about disc slippage are weight lifting, sedentary, obesity, engaging in activities that strains your back repetitively and frequent driving among others.

Herniated disc is one of the causes of nerve root compression or ‘pinched nerve’ which may lead to painful experience (nerve root pain) in several segments or one side of the body,  for instance one of the symptoms of herniated disc is sciatica.

Herniated disc is very common around the cervical, lumbar and sacral regions of the spine. It is more common on the fourth and fifth lumbar vertebrae around the low back area.

Herniated disc symptoms varies based on the location of the slippage. For instance, a prolapsed herniated disc within the lumbar spine may exhibit the following symptoms- radiating nerve pain, occasionally it may result in bowel and bladder incontinence.

Symptoms of herniated disc

Herniated disc symptoms experienced by patients differs based on the location of the disc, the extent of damage done to the disc, how long the disc has be suffering from herniation and which of the vertebral column is affected, the actual vertebra(e) affected. Here below are few examples of herniated disc symptoms to watch out for:

  1. Shooting pain around the buttock area that radiates down to the back of the thigh and down in the leg. This is common with herniation of disc at the level between the 4th and 5th lumbar vertebra. A severe pain may result from a large disc herniation which may cause both segments of the body to experience severe pain.
  2. Localized pain at the exact region where the disc is affected.
  3. Numbness and tingling sensation in the leg.
  4. Loss of bowel or bladder control. While this is a very rare occurrence, it may be a sign of something big come onto the scene. Emergency medical response is very critical as this might a complicated case of nerve root compression.
  5. Blood collects around the nerve root. This happens mostly after surgeries. This is more of a post-op surgical symptom.
  6. Sexual dysfunction is common in patients with badly affected sacral disc herniation.

A combination of these herniated disc symptoms needs to be evaluated immediately. The symptoms show when the extent of degeneration of the disc is advancing.

Herniated disc may be corrected by first making proper diagnosis before treatment can be successful.

Mild symptoms may be treated with pain relievers such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (example is ibuprofen).

The following are diagnostic means and tests that could be used to treat herniated discs:

  1. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and Computer tomography (CT) scan.
  2. Blood tests may be done to rule out infections an inflammation.
  3. Physical examination may also be done, one instance is straight leg test (SLR), so also knee cap stimulation as well as other neurological examinations may be necessary to test for loss of muscle control.

Herniated discs may be corrected by surgical means, epidural steroid injections (this has proven to be successful on most application), exercises that involves stretching and pain relieving medications.

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