The spine in the back is formed by bones, which are in effect cushioned by discs that are small in size and spongy in texture. These discs help keep the spine healthy by absorbing the shocks that it may experience, keeping it flexible. However, if this particular disc is subjected to any damage it can very easily break or bulge. This is basically what a herniated disc is, which is also referred to as a ruptured disc or a slipped disk.
The lumbar spine in the lower back, the cervical spine in the neck and the thoracic spine the upper back can all undergo this issue with a herniated disc, but it is the most common in the lower back and the rarest in the upper back.
There are two plausible explanations to the occurrence of a herniated disc. It can either be caused due to ageing, which makes the discs less flexible, leading to wear and tear and subsequently,a herniated disc. Another possible cause to a herniated disc may be an injury to the spine. An injury to the spine may lead to the formation of thin cracks on the hard shelled outer layer of the discs, forcing the gel inside the disc to seep through to the outer surface. This can then lead to bigger cracks in the disc, a bulge or a breakage, destroying the disc to pieces.
The symptoms of a herniated disc may begin to emerge when it starts to push on the nerve roots. That can cause weakness in the area where the particular nerve travels, pain and numbness. In the lower back, a herniated disc can cause numbness and severe pain in the lower area of the leg up to the buttocks. This kind of a condition is the most common symptom of a herniated disc in the lower back and is called ‘sciatica’. Furthermore, a rather rare and serious symptom of the disease called ‘caudaequina syndrome’ can lead to numbness and loss of sensation in both the legs along with a loss of bowel or bladder control. In case of such an occurrence, be sure to consult a doctor immediately.
The symptoms that cause trouble from a herniated disc usually settle out within a month or a few weeks depending on the severity of the situation. However, in order to recover, a certain few measures must be put in place. The first step to recovery is evaluating your pain. If the pain is bearable, do not just lie in bed and laze around as that can make weaken your muscles and worsen your condition. If you are suffering from severe, overbearing pain, then you may rest it out. Otherwise, it is more advisable to walk or participate in other light activities to keep active and avoid muscle stiffness.
Furthermore, heating pads can also be very helpful in terms of pain relief from a herniated disc. If you use a heating pad over the affected area on the spine every 2-3 hours for 15 minutes, it can be highly soothing. Additionally, consult a therapist or a physician and regularly practice the exercises or therapies asked of you in order to recover quicker and more efficiently. Also, medication can help with the swelling and pain, so consult a doctor with medications as well.
Most times, if the correct measures to recovery are taken, like the ones mentioned above, a herniateddisc can heal on its own within a month tops. It is very rare to undergo surgery to treat a herniated disc. However, if your symptoms do not diminish and the disc does not heal, you may refer to your doctor and take opinions on possible surgeries.