Herniation of a spinal disc, sometimes referred to as being bulging or collapsed, happens when the gel-like inner core leaks out of a disruption in its outer wall. Discs are units of material that are tough and fibrous on the outside and gel-like toward the center. They fill the space between two vertebrae and act as pads that absorb impact during movement. Disc herniation can occur at the cervical (neck) and thoracic (torso) spine levels, but occurs most frequently in the lumbar (low back) area of the L4 and L5 vertebrae due to its weight-bearing role for the upper body. The injury can extend far enough so that the nerve root gets compressed, causing pain. People aged 30 to 50 have the highest incidence of disc herniation.
Symptoms from disc herniation vary, depending on the location of the injury and involvement of nerve tissue. In many cases, they begin suddenly. Common warning signs are a pain, tingling, weakness, or lack of sensation in one or more limbs. Some people report shooting pain from the lower back all the way down one or both legs. Muscle weakness and loss of control of bladder/bowel can also occur. Still, others experience no symptoms at all.
Many disc herniations happen from normal wear and tear, but some are due to significant trauma. Over the course of life, the fluid in the disc core begins dry out, making it more likely to tear from middle outward.
A Physician detects disc herniation by reviewing past medical history and performing a physical evaluation that includes assessment of current symptoms. Additional tests such as X-ray MRI, CT scan, Discogram, and EMG provide added evidence needed to confirm or rule out the condition.
The care plan for treating a disc herniation starts with a non-surgical approach of medication for pain control. Physical therapy is next, including exercise, stretching, heat and ice packs, and ultrasound, with the option for traction or use of braces. If surgical intervention is necessary, a discectomy or other procedure can be discussed.
If you suffer from disc herniation and would like to find out if you are a candidate for the treatment options we provide, please call us at either our New Braunfels or Seguin offices.