Often times, we may not know we have a certain condition or injury until it is extremely painful and affecting our lives. This may be the case with disc herniation. While the name alone sounds like something that would be quite painful, and it can be, herniated discs can start out as an annoyance or passing pain. Eventually, however, the pain can be excruciating. If you have reached a point where you are experiencing severe pain, numbness, or tingling in your neck or lower back, a consultation at Advance Health and Wellness may be able to help.
Herniated discs are most commonly found in either the cervical (neck) or lumbar (lower) spine, with rare instances happening in the thoracic (upper/middle) area of the back. The pain resulting from a disc herniation can be localized, but often radiates through the surrounding nerves to other parts of the body and extremities.
Discs are the sponge-like “cushions” in between the vertebrae in your spine, whose job it is to both separate and attach each vertebra to those on either side of it. They are comprised of two different layers of cartilage: one, the annulus fibrosus, is a hard outer layer, the other, the nucleus pulposus, is softer and is similar to gel. Over time, the soft layer can harden, making it harder for the discs to absorb shock, and therefore more susceptible to injury. Due to this hardening over time, those past middle age are more likely to experience disc injuries.
When the discs receive multiple blows that they are unable to absorb properly, they can bulge. While that swelling in and of itself is its own condition, herniated discs are a separate, and more severe, problem. Herniation occurs when the bulging disc ruptures, and the gel-like substance seeps outside of the ring, much like glue out of a tube. A small rupture can take place, letting only a bit of the fluid out, or a much larger one, which lets out all or most of the fluid, can occur. The pain you experience is related to how much fluid leaks out, as well as whether or not pieces of the hard outer ring break off and make their way to the spinal canal.
Like many conditions, our risks of having a disc herniation increases with age. However, many activities that often cause all types of spinal injuries can cause this condition, no matter how old you are. Bad posture, lack of exercise and a primarily sedentary lifestyle, disc degeneration, lifting a very heavy object incorrectly, extreme twisting of the spine, or a quick, jerking motion can all cause discs to herniate. Physical exercise such as weightlifting, sports like cheerleading, or jobs such as construction, can all put you at higher risk of a herniated disc, as they all require heavy lifting
While it is true that pain medications may briefly and slightly relieve the pain of a herniated disc, it is very important that you uncover the site and cause of your injury and begin treatment or therapy as soon as possible to avoid any further injury or complications.