FAQ’s on Herniated Disc
What is a herniated disc?
Herniated disc is a medical condition in which the disc that is present in between the vertebrae of the spine gets shifted from its position. According to Salvo (2008) a herniated disc involves protrusion of the nucleus pulposus through a tear in the annulus fibrosus.
This disc is basically a cushion that is made up of a soft interior and a very tough hard exterior. If this soft portion of the disc gets displaced from its position and pushes out of its hard exterior then such a condition is known as a herniated disc. This medical condition can cause severe pain and is usually seen in the discs that are present in the lumbar region of the spine.
What causes a herniated disc?
A herniated disc can be caused due to one of two reasons. The first one is mostly degeneration. As we begin to age, the spinal discs of our body start losing water and degenerate. As this happens with the discs, the hard exterior develops cracks from which the soft interior portion can easily squeeze out resulting in a herniated disc.
The second cause of this medical condition is injury or trauma suffered by the spine. In such cases, the discs might break apart completely or become too damaged that the softer interior part of the discs oozes out of them.
What are the symptoms of herniated disc?
The symptoms of a herniated disc are usually intense pain in the legs. However, other symptoms are also accompanied with this pain which depend on the location of the herniated disc. If the herniated disc is present in the lumbar region of the spine then the symptoms are going to include numbness of the lower extremities as well as severe and intense pain in the thighs, buttocks and the region below the knees.The symptoms really depend on which nerve is being pinched.
Similarly if the herniated disc is present in the upper portion of the spine (cervical spine) then the pain is going to be felt in the arms and the shoulders. A tingling sensation is also felt by some patients who have a herniated disc.
How is herniated disc diagnosed?
The diagnosis of herniated disc is carried out first by doing a physical exam which is followed by the use of radiological imaging tests like MRI and CT scan. Blood tests are usually of little to no usefulness in the diagnostic evaluation of patients with a suspected herniated disc (Postacchini, 1999).
The imaging tests are more than enough to show the San Diego pain management doctors which of the discs have been damaged and which nerves have been affected. Most of the SD pain clinic doctors prefer an MRI to a CT scan as it shows them the nerves that have been damaged by the broken disc.
What are the Treatment Options for herniated disc?
Usually treatment of a herniated disc is carried out by giving pain relieving medications such as Tylenol and ibuprofen. If however, the pain does not subside with the use of these drugs then corticosteroids may be given to the patient to alleviate the pain (Medrol Dose Pak). Patients that do not respond to corticosteroids and even after their administration complain of still having intense pain are given muscle relaxers, narcotics and potentially neurogenic medications such as Lyrica or Neurontin.
Most of the times the use of medications is enough for treating a patient suffering from a herniated disc, however, epidural steroid injections may be needed. These injections have been the gold standard for decades in the treatment of sciatica from a herniated disc. They may be done as a series of three injections if necessary, or simply one if it works well.
If you or a loved one with a herniated disc needs the best treatment in Southern California, let the California Pain Network help you. The Network connects those in pain with the best pain management clinics in San Diego and surrounding areas.
Call (619) 500-1573 for more information and scheduling today!
Salvo G. Susan, Mosby’s Pathology for Massage Therapists, Missouri: Mosby, 2008: 191-192.
Postacchini, Franco, Lumbar Disc Herniation, Rome: Springer-Verlag Wien New York, 1999: 597-598.