Updated Oct. 16, 2019
Do you wonder what a herniated disc is?
Widely referred to as “slipped disc”, a herniated disc (according to the Mayo Clinic) refers to a problem with one of the rubbery cushions (discs) between the individual bones (vertebrae) that stack up to make your spine. A herniated disc can irritate nearby nerves, resulting in pain, weakness or numbness in an arm or leg.
As you know, a series of bones make up your spine from your neck to your spinal base. In between these bones are disc shaped cartilage designed to cushion the bones and protect them. Your lifestyle, injuries, and age can lead to break down in these discs which then lead to pain. They don’t actually “slip” but they can rupture or bulge or even split open causing their fluid to leak.
In some cases, you can have a herniated disc and not even know it, there are a few common signs and symptoms:
- Arm and/or leg pain
- Numbness and tingling – usually on one side of the body
- Weakness of your arm/leg
- Pain that gets worse while standing
You can have a slipped or herniated disc in your neck or spine. Typically, symptoms are experienced only on one side of the body.
If the herniation is very large and presses on the spinal cord or the cauda equina in the lumbar region, both sides of the body may be affected, often with serious consequences. Compression of the cauda equina can cause permanent nerve damage or paralysis. The nerve damage can result in loss of bowel and bladder control as well as sexual dysfunction. This disorder is called cauda equina syndrome.
More common is general pain and symptoms like those mentioned above on side of the body.
What Causes a Slipped Disc?
Disc herniation can result from general wear and tear. In other words, they’re more common as people get older. However, if you have a job requiring lifting and squatting, then you’re more susceptible. Minor back pain and chronic back tiredness are indicators of general wear and tear too which can lead to injury.
People who are overweight are at greater risk too. Combine that with a sedentary lifestyle and you get weak muscles which lead to many aches and pains including things like a slipped disc.
Spinal disc herniation can occur in different locations:
- Cervical – These most often occur in the neck and symptoms can affect the back of the skull, the neck, shoulder girdle, scapula, shoulder, arm, and hand.
- Lumbar – These occur in the lower back and Symptoms can affect the lower back, buttocks, thigh, anal/genital region and may radiate into the foot and/or toe. The most commonly affected nerve is the sciatic nerve that runs the length of your back and down your legs.
You can prevent herniated disc pain with exercise, good posture and regular chiropractor treatments. If you have a herniated disc, these will still help and you may also find massage therapy helpful.
Do you have a herniated disc? Would you like to speak with a professional? Dr. McQuaite in Doylestown, Pa. takes most insurances.