You’ve probably heard people say they have a "slipped" or "ruptured" disc in
the back. Sometimes they complain that their back "went out". What they’re
most likely describing is a herniated disc. This condition is a common source
of back and leg pain.
Discs are soft cushions found between the vertebrae that make up the spinal
column (your backbone). In the middle of the spinal column is the spinal
canal, a hollow space that contains the spinal cord. The nerves that supply
the arms, leg, and torso come from the spinal cord. The nerves from the neck
supply the arms and hands, and the nerves from the low back supply the butt
and legs. The discs between the vertebrae allow the back to move freely and
act like shock absorbers.
The disc is made up of two main sections. The outer part (the annulus) is made
up of tough cartilage that is comprised of series of rings. The center of the
disc is a jelly-like substance called the nucleus pulposus. A disc herniates
or ruptures when part of the jelly center pushes through the outer wall of the
disc into the spinal canal, and puts pressure on the nerves. A disc bulge is
when the jelly substance pushes the outer wall but doesn’t completely go
through the wall.
What do you feel?
Low back pain will affect four out of five people during their lifetime. The
most common symptom of a herniated disc is "sciatica". Sciatica is best
described as a sharp, often shooting pain that begins in the buttocks and goes
down the back of one leg. This is most often caused by pressure on the sciatic
nerve that exits the spinal cord. Other symptoms include:
* Weakness in one leg or both legs
* Numbness and tingling in one leg (pins & needles)
* A burning pain centered in the low back
* Loss of bladder or bowel control (seek medical attention immediately)
* Back pain with gradually increasing leg pain. (If you have weakness in both
legs. Seek immediate attention.)
How do you know you have a herniated disc?
Your medical history is key to a proper diagnosis. A physical examination can
usually determine which nerve roots are affected (and how seriously). A simple
x-ray may show evidence of disc or degenerative spine changes. An MRI
(magnetic resonance imaging) is usually the best option (most expensive) to
determine which disc has herniated.
Why do discs herniate?
Discs are primarily composed of water. As we become older (after the age of
30), the water content decreases, so the discs begin to shrink and lose their
shape. When the disc becomes smaller the space between the vertebrae decreases
and become narrower. Also, as the disc loses water content the disc itself
becomes less flexible.
While aging, excess weight, improper lifting and the decrease in water in the
discs all contribute to the breaking down of discs, the primary cause of a
herniation or bluge is uneven compression and torsion that’s placed on the
This uneven pressure is caused by imbalances in muscles that pull the spine
out of its normal position and then your body is forced to function in what I
call a physical dysfunction. Every human being develops these dysfunctions
over time and eventually they cause enough damage to create pain.
The best treatment options
When it comes to treating a herniated disc, there are traditional treatments
such as ice/heat, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, cortisone injections,
anti-inflammatory medications and even surgery. While these may deliver some
relief, it will usually be temporary if at all.
But the major problem with these traditional treatments is that they can’t fix
or heal a herniated disc as they do not address the actual cause of the
problem. For example, even if you were to have a surgery and get some pain
relief, the fact is the dysfunctions that caused the disc to herniated in the
first place are still there and if not addressed, they will continue to place
uneven pressure and strain on the discs and sooner or later you will likely
have another problem with that disc, or others.
Without identifying and addressing the underlying cause of the problem, which
is the physical dysfunctions caused by imbalances in muscles, you will likely
continue to suffer with this condition and the continuous flare ups for years.
Unfortunately, most doctors, chiropractors and physical therapists don’t spend
time or focus on identifying the physical dysfunctions that are responsible
for the condition so most people end up jumping from one useless traditional
treatment to the next and suffer for months or years unnecessarily.
If you have been diagnosed with a herniated disc, or are wondering if your
back pain may be caused by a herniated disc, either way you must identify and
address the physical dysfunctions that are causing your pain as part of your
For more information on herniated discs and how to treat them effectively,
read the latest Back Pain Advisory from The Healthy Back Institute. You can
get a free copy of it here:
- Name: Dr. Robert Duvall
- Date: 01/03/07 at 22:14
- Email: email@example.com
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