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Herniated Discs

Your spinal discs resemble small jelly donuts nestled between the vertebrae of your back. Often referred to as intervertebral discs, they are critical structures that serve essential functions contributing to our body’s flexibility, mobility, shock absorption, and overall health. When the soft material inside a disc pushes through the exterior and between the vertebrae, it’s called a herniated disc or slipped disc.

Herniated Discs

A compromised disc can lead to various scenarios, all of which can cause intense and debilitating pain if it creates pressure on the spinal nerves. For that reason, it’s essential to consult a pain management professional as soon as possible for herniated disc/slipped disc treatment.

Herniated discs can be caused by accident, injury, or just years of continuous wear and tear. Whether you were aware of the incident or not, it is advisable to consult one of our experts at Pro Spine & Pain at the first indication of back pain. Prompt diagnosis and treatment are crucial to prevent further complications or even irreparable nerve damage from a herniated disc. Schedule an appointment now.

Maintaining an active lifestyle exposes your back to considerable stress. Whether engaged in activities like skating, playing tennis, or even routine shopping, your back undergoes significant twisting, turning, bending, and lifting. Irrespective of your fitness level, strenuous activities or repetitive motions can contribute to herniated discs.

If you’re struggling with persistent pain or stiffness in your back or neck, it’s time to seek guidance from the pain management specialists at Pro Spine & Pain who will decide how to treat your herniated disc and create a personalized treatment plan to address any of the acute or chronic pain you may be experiencing.


Symptoms of a Herniated Disc

The lumbar spine—or lower back—is the most commonly affected area when it comes to herniated discs, and lower back pain is a common medical complaint nationwide. If you have a ruptured disc in your lower back, you might experience the following symptoms:

  • Pain, which can be centralized in your back or extend to buttocks, feet, or leg pain
  • General muscle weakness
  • Numbness or tingling in your hands or feet

A herniated disc in the neck can also manifest similar symptoms, including:

  • Pain in the back or on the sides of your neck
  • Pain around your shoulder blade or radiating to the shoulder or arm
  • Neck muscle spasms

Certain movements may exacerbate or spread your pain, and prolonged periods in one position can also trigger discomfort. It’s worth noting that you may actually have a herniated disc without noticeable symptoms, and the condition may only be discovered during a routine annual examination.

Causes of Herniated Discs

Nerve roots emerge from the sides of the spinal canal by passing through the small openings located between each vertebra. When a disc herniates or ruptures, it exerts pressure on these nerves, often resulting in a pinched nerve. While you might not pinpoint a specific action causing your back or neck pain, you may recall when the pain first started. It could be associated with using your back muscles to lift a heavy object or making an awkward turn during a physical activity.

For those engaged in athletic or other active pursuits, the risk of back injury, pulled muscles, or herniated discs increases during activities like running, jumping, dancing, or participating in contact sports. Jobs that involve substantial physical demands, including frequent lifting, bending, pushing, or pulling, also pose a risk of back injury . Furthermore, excess body weight can strain the lower back. As you age, the natural aging process may contribute to degenerative joint disease.

Risk Factors for a Herniated Disc

While anyone can develop this condition, certain factors increase the risk of experiencing a herniated disc. That means that some people are more likely than others to suffer from this problem.

  • Mechanical. Pain occurs because of the injury to the spine, soft tissues, or intervertebral discs. Pregnancy is sometimes seen as a mechanical cause of pain.
  • Inflammatory. An acute inflammatory process causes the pain.
  • Degenerative. Osteoarthritis is related to the degenerative cause of pain.
  • Infectious. It includes infections of the spine, epidural abscesses, discs and soft tissue abscesses.
  • Oncologic. This type of pain is caused by Lytic lesions, bone marrow cancers, or compressive nerve phenomena from adjacent space-occupying lesions.

It is worth mentioning that a variety of non-back-related health conditions can cause pain in the back. Pneumonia or obstructive kidney disease, for example, can result in back discomfort or pain. Hence, when assessing your condition, your back pain specialist in New Jersey should not rule out these processes from the differential diagnosis.
Some of the most distinguishing reasons for back pain are:

  • Age: As we age, our spinal discs start losing moisture and elasticity, making them more prone to injury. Herniated discs are most commonly seen in people between the ages of 30 and 50 years old due to natural wear and tear on the spine over time.
  • Occupation: Certain professions or activities involving repetitive bending, twisting, heavy lifting, or sitting for long periods can put individuals at higher risk of developing a herniated disc. Jobs like construction workers, nurses, truck drivers, and athletes involved in contact sports are examples of occupations that may pose an increased risk due to physical strain on the spine.
  • Genetics: There is evidence suggesting that genetics play a role in determining one’s susceptibility to herniated discs. If someone in your family has experienced this condition before, you might have a higher likelihood of developing it too.
  • Weight: Excess body weight places additional stress on your spinal discs as they bear the load of supporting your upper body. Being overweight or obese increases the chances of developing various musculoskeletal conditions including herniated discs.
  • Sedentary lifestyle: Lack of exercise weakens muscles that support the spine and makes it harder for nutrients to reach spinal discs efficiently. A sedentary lifestyle with minimal physical activity contributes significantly to an increased risk of experiencing a herniated disc.
  • Poor posture: Maintaining poor posture while sitting or standing can place excessive pressure on certain areas of your spine leading to accelerated degeneration and potential disc damage. Slouching or hunching for prolonged periods may increase the risk of herniated discs.
  • Smoking: Smoking affects the body’s ability to deliver oxygen and nutrients to spinal discs, thus impairing their health and increasing the risk of disc degeneration. Smokers have a higher likelihood of developing herniated discs than non-smokers.

Herniated Disc Treatments

Diagnosing herniated disks involves a comprehensive physical and neurological examination, including a full medical history, to assess muscle strength, reflexes, and sensitivity to light touch. To eliminate other potential causes of lower back pain, diagnostic tests such as X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or CT scans may be necessary.

Conservative, nonsurgical treatment will be prioritized by your Wisconsin doctor. If your condition does not respond to these measures, minimally invasive, arthroscopic spine surgery may be considered. A range of treatments may be recommended, progressing from minimally invasive to more intensive:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen and naproxen can alleviate inflammation and pain and enhance mobility.
  • Physical therapy: Working with physical therapists enables you to learn exercises that reduce pain and strengthen supporting muscles, reducing reliance on your back.
  • Prescription medications: If over-the-counter options prove insufficient, your doctor may prescribe muscle relaxers or narcotic painkillers. These are a short-term solution only due to their addictive side effects.
  • Cortisone injections: An injection of corticosteroids can reduce inflammation and alleviate pain.
  • Surgery: In cases where symptoms persist despite less invasive treatments, herniated disc surgery may be necessary to address structural issues.

For expert treatment or surgery for a herniated disc in Wisconsin, reach out to the specialists at Pro Spine & Pain. Schedule an appointment to receive a precise diagnosis and commence appropriate treatment so that you can get back to your daily routines. Our expert pain management physicians specialize in diagnosing and treating back pain.

Updated on Apr 25, 2024 by Dr. Thomas Stauss (Pain Management) of Pro Spine & Pain

Thomas Stauss, MD

Thomas Stauss, MD, completed both his undergraduate and medical studies at the esteemed University of Wisconsin in Madison. Dr. Stauss values having access to a wide array of cutting-edge treatment options, ensuring effective relief for his patients' discomfort and a significant enhancement in their quality of life. More specifically, he specializes in utilizing implanted devices to manage chronic pain. Dr. Stauss’s primary objective is to uphold the dignity of each patient while delivering ethical and professional services.

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