When it comes to going about your day, few things will disrupt your normal, daily routine like a sudden jolt of back pain. Often, this pain can seemingly appear out of nowhere, rendering once easy tasks like tying your shoes nearly impossible without intense pain in the neck or back. While the localized pain may make it relatively simple to know just where it hurts, determining whether or not it’s a herniated disc is a somewhat more difficult process.
Situated medially within the body, the vertebral column is one of the most important skeletal formations in humans. Known more commonly as the “spine,” the column is made up of 33 individual bones of various sizes, each of a different size and shape. Beginning with the cervical region and ending with the coccyx, the curved spine is what allows you to stand upright, twist and bend, all while protecting the spinal cord. In order to provide maximum support and prevent the vertebra from rubbing against each other, each piece of bone is separated from the others by a thin disc. These discs provide shock support, and are vital to proper spinal function. Relatable to a jelly donut, the discs are firmer on the outside, with a “jelly” like substance on the inside. Unfortunately, like any other part of the body, portions of the vertebral column can become damaged over time or through certain repetitive activities. When one of the discs located between the vertebra becomes damaged, a portion of it may “bulge” out between the spinal column and into a nearby bundle of nerves. This, in turn, causes immense pain and discomfort.
Although a herniated disc can sometimes feel like typical back pain, there are several important symptoms to watch out for. Knowing what differentiates a herniated disc from a less severe injury will enable you to seek out the proper treatment and minimize your discomfort.
- Tingling or numbness into the leg or arm
- Weakness in the hand, leg, or foot
- Significant changes in bowel or bladder control
Due to the location of discs throughout the spinal column, the location of pain and the type of symptoms can vary based on the nerves effected. For example, herniated discs in the lower lumbar region may present with a feeling of numbness and weakness that can extend far beyond the back, and it is not uncommon for these symptoms to appear in the buttocks, leg or even the foot. Injuries in the upper region of the lumbar spine are often characterized by pain in the groin or front of the thigh.
Herniated discs within the neck can cause pain in the shoulders, arms and even hands. Like the lower back, it’s not unusual to experience a tingling or numb sensation to go along with the pain. Often, an injury of this type is due to poor posture while standing or seated.
How to get relief
Having a herniated disc can put an immediate stop to many of your favorite activities or important tasks, especially if the injury begins to cause weakness. Often times, people rush to their primary care doctor or a spine surgeon. This can lead to costly MRIs, prescription meds, or even long term issues. Physical Therapy at Reneu focuses on increasing blood flow to the disc to promote healing, as well as loosening the muscles around the herniated to disc that cause secondary pain and muscle spasms. We will also give you the education and skills to prevent your disc from herniating again.