Your spine is made up of several vertebrae (bones) that line up along the spinal cord in sets. To avoid friction between the bones, the vertebrae are separated by discs, which cushion or protect the different bones. The discs feature a strong outer covering with a soft center known as nucleus. For various reasons, the outer covering of the discs can tear, making the nucleus (soft jelly at the center) bulge or slip out. This is what is referred to as slipped disc or bulging disc, which leads to herniated disc syndrome.
Symptoms of Herniated Disc Syndrome
Herniated disc syndrome presents varied symptoms, depending on where herniation occurs. Some of the symptoms include:
- Mild pain – You are bound to experience mild pain if the herniation only affects a disc.
- Severe pain – You are bound to experience severe pain that can extend from your neck to your lower back.
- Pain in the thighs, knees and feet – You are bound to experience pain in your thighs, knees and feet. This occurs when the herniation affects membranes and nerves that serve these parts of your body. You are therefore likely to have weak muscles, tingling sensation and numbness in areas affected.
- Sciatica – If herniation occurs in your lumbar region, the sciatic nerve (which serves your legs) is likely to be affected. This results in pain in the leg(s) along the affected nerve.
It is not mandatory that you must experience herniated disc symptoms in order to know that you have the syndrome. You can have herniated disc without any symptoms at all, depending on location and surrounding materials affected. Note that in case of any symptoms, you are bound to experience such only on one side of your body. Herniated disc syndrome poses a very serious danger of paralysis. This can occur if herniated disc is within your lumbar region, which can result in permanent damage to nerves. If this occurs, you are bound to lose control of your bladder along with sexual dysfunction.
Where can Herniated Disc occur?
The following are the locations where herniated disc can occur:
- Cervical area – Cervical disc herniation occurs in your neck vertebral bodies.
- Thoracic area – Although it is very rare for herniated disc syndrome to affect this part, such cannot be ruled out. Thoracic discs are in most cases very stable and therefore not susceptible to herniation.
- Lumbar area – Herniated disc syndrome in most cases affects vertebrae in this area (your lower back). Because other vertebral bodies such as sciatic nerve are affected, your thigh, knee, leg, feet and genital regions are also affected.
Causes of Herniated Disc Syndrome
Various causes of herniated disc syndrome are as follows
- Herniated disc syndrome is mainly caused by continuous wear and tear of spinal vertebral discs
- Long sitting or standing hours
- Extreme bending most of the time
- Lifting very heavy items
- Traumatic jobs that exert a lot of pressure on your vertebral discs, which leads to wear and tear of the same.
Regularly performing such actions leads to fast wear and tear, which causes herniated disc syndrome. Genes have also been established to play a part in the occurrence of herniated disc syndrome.
Diagnosis & Treatment of Herniated Disc Syndrome
Diagnosing herniated disc syndrome is undertaken through various procedures. Such include physical examination exercise (Straight leg raise), through imaging (X-rays, tomography, MRI, CT scan and electromyogram). Your doctor is likely to perform a number of these procedures in order to eliminate the possibility of a different disease or health condition that present same symptoms as herniated disc syndrome.
The first line of treating herniated disc syndrome is usually by using non-inflammatory medications to eliminate pain and any inflammation. This is because majority of herniated discs heal on their own after several weeks. Along with anti-inflammatory medications, you are bound to be educated on proper body mechanics. You may also receive massage therapy. It is only after these procedures without success that surgery is considered. Surgery treatment is usually aimed at relieving pain and nerve compression. This enables affected nerve(s) to recover for normal function.