About Herniated Disc
What is a Herniated Disc?
In the spinal column, there are intervertebral discs sandwiched in between many vertebrae. An intervertebral disc is made up of a fibro-cartilaginous round outer casing called annulus fibrosus. Within the annulus fibrosus is a gel like substance called the nucleus pulposus. The nucleus pulposus acts as a shock absorber for the spinal column, brain, and nerves.
When a bulge or herniation is in a spinal column disc, the bulge or herniation will pinch nearby nerves; this is called a herniated disc
Types of Herniated Discs
A herniated disc can also be known as a bulging disc, a ruptured disc, or a prolapsed disc.
Through the foramina of the vertebrae, the spinal cord travels down to the sacrum. At the sacrum, spinal nerve levels with sensory nerves exit laterally out of the spinal column, form bulbous dorsal root ganglia, and, once again, move laterally. When a disc becomes herniated, the outer wall of the annulus fibrosus starts to give way; this forms a “bulge” as the nucleus pulposus moves to the outer edge, thus, creating a bulging disc.
Ruptured and Prolapsed Disc
After this happens, the bulge will pinch nearby nerves and cause pain. If a tear occurs, the gel-like substance, called the nucleus pulposus, ruptures through the annulus fibrosus and falls below onto the dorsal root ganglia causing severe pain in the neck or back. This creates a ruptured disc or prolapsed disc.
Symptoms and Causes
The following symptoms are dependant on the location of the herniated disc.
- Back pain may pass through the leg(s)
- Neck pain may pass through the arm(s)
- Leg pain, numbness, and/or weakness
- Foot pain, numbness, and/or weakness
- Arm pain, numbness, and/or weakness
- Hand pain, numbness, and/or weakness
- Difficulty walking
A herniated disc can cause you pain in the area of the herniation. If it is in the cervical region, there may be some referred pain to your shoulders, arms, and hands. If it is in the lumbar region, there may be some referred pain to your buttocks, thighs, legs, and feet; the pain usually follows down the sciatic nerve. Because of this, it may be difficult to do any strenuous or physical activities. These include work, house, or sports related activities.
Treatment for a Herniated Disc
- Back stretching and strengthening exercises
- Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
- Strong medications
- Muscle relaxants
- Epidural injections in herniated disc
If the above is not a solution to the pain and discomfort, surgery may be required. In order to provide pain relief, the surgeon may remove part of the disc or bone (lamina). Vertebrae bones may also be fused to alleviate pain.
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