Herniated Disk (Slipped Disk)


Herniated Disk (Slipped Disk)

A herniated disc, also commonly called a slipped disc, is a condition in which the soft, gel-like center (nucleus pulposus) of an intervertebral disc protrudes or bulges outward through a tear in the tough outer covering (annulus fibrosus). These intervertebral discs act as cushions and shock absorbers between the vertebrae of your spine, providing flexibility and support during movement. When a herniated disc occurs, the protruding material can put pressure on nearby nerves, causing pain, numbness, weakness, and other symptoms depending on the location of the herniation.

What are the Symptoms?

What are the Causes & Risk Factor?

Common causes and risk factors for herniated discs include:

Predisposing factors for herniated discs

Although anyone can develop a herniated disc, certain factors can increase your susceptibility:

Diagnosis of Herniated discs

During a physical exam, your healthcare professional checks your back for tenderness. 

In most cases of herniated disc, a physical examination and medical history are sufficient to make the diagnosis. 

Nerve conduction studies and electromyograms (EMGs) measure how well electrical impulses travel along nerve tissue. These tests help identify the location of nerve damage.

Treatment Options for Herniated Disks

The good news is that most herniated disks improve with conservative treatment within a few weeks or months. Treatment typically involves a multimodal approach, focusing on pain management, reducing inflammation, and promoting healing. 

  1. Rest: While complete bed rest is not usually recommended, avoiding strenuous activities that exacerbate pain can be beneficial in the initial phase of recovery. 
  2. Pain medication: Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help manage pain and discomfort. In some cases, stronger pain medication might be prescribed by a healthcare professional. 
  3. Physical therapy: Physical therapy plays a crucial role in managing herniated disks. Manual therapy techniques like massage therapy and joint mobilization can help manage pain, improve mobility, and reduce muscle tension. 
  4. Heat or ice therapy: Applying heat or ice packs to the affected area can help reduce inflammation and pain. 
  5. Lifestyle modifications: Maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in regular physical activity (excluding activities that exacerbate pain), and practicing good posture can all contribute to managing herniated disks and preventing future occurrences. 

In some cases, if conservative approaches fail to provide adequate pain relief after several weeks, minimally invasive procedures might be considered:

Selective nerve root blocks injections deliver a local anesthetic and sometimes a corticosteroid directly to the affected nerve root, providing targeted pain relief.

Herniated disk surgery is typically a last resort for individuals with severe and persistent pain that significantly impacts their daily life and has not responded to conservative or minimally invasive treatments. The most common surgical procedures for herniated disks include: 

  1. Microdiscectomy: This minimally invasive surgery involves removing the herniated portion of the disk through a small incision. 
  2. Discectomy and fusion: This surgery involves removing the herniated portion of the disk and fusing the vertebrae together with bone grafts or implants to prevent future herniations. 

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