Components of the spine, disks are the rubbery cushions, located between the hard bone of the individual vertebrae of the spine, which allow the back to bend and flex. Disks serve as shock absorbers, protecting the spine. A spinal disk is comprised of a soft center encased within a firmer exterior. Also referred to as a slipped disk or a ruptured disk, a herniated disk happens when some of the disk's interior pushes out through a crack in the tougher exterior.
Herniated Disk Causes
Herniated disks most commonly the result of the disk degeneration that happens as a result of age-related wear and tear. Overtime, spinal disks lose water content to some degree, which makes them less flexible and more prone to rupture. As people age, even a minor strain or twist can lead to a herniated disk. Factors that contribute to a herniated disk include:
- Improper lifting
- Excessive weight
- Repetitive strenuous activities
Herniated Disk Symptoms
Often the herniated disk will irritate nearby nerves and result in numbness, pain, or weakening in an arm or leg. Some people, however, experience no symptoms associated with the herniated disk. Most diagnosed with a herniated disk do not require surgery to correct the problem. Most people with a herniated disk experience symptoms including:
- Pain in the buttocks, thigh, or calf can indicate a lower herniated disk
- Pain in the neck, shoulder, or arm can indicate an upper herniated disk
- Numbness or tingling in the affected area
- Weakness in the affected area
Herniated Disk Treatment
Most cases of a herniated disk can be treated with a conservative course of treatment. This may include:
- Over-the-counter pain medication and rest
- Anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxers, or analgesics
- Application of ice or heat, as recommended by the doctor
- Limitation of activities
When a herniated disk does not respond to these non-invasive treatments, epidural injections of a cortisone-type drug may be prescribed. In some cases, a surgical procedure such as a diskectomy may be necessary to correct the problem.
If you are experiencing the symptoms of a herniated disk, contact us to schedule an appointment. We will provide a complete evaluation and prescribe the best course of treatment for you.