What is a Herniated Disc?
The older you are, the more likely it is that you’ve heard of the specific type of neck or back ailment called a “herniated disc” If you have a herniated disc, this is the situation where the semi-squishy part that sits between the bones and cushions in your spine (discs and vertebrae, respectively) have a problem. The spine is made up of the protective vertebrae that you likely picture when you hear the word “spine,” but inside of it are two additional components called the nucleus and the annulus. The nucleus is a jelly-like element that sits in the center of the vertebrae, and it’s surrounded by a stronger material, which is the annulus.
If the jelly nucleus slips out through the annulus (that has been injured or otherwise torn), this is what is referred to as a herniated disc, and it is not relegated to any specific location of the spine. Typically, however, it will happen in the lower half of the spine.
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In most cases, herniated discs will cause pain, weakness in the arms (if it occurs higher in the spine) or the legs (if it occurs lower in the spine), and even numbness. However, there are rare cases where someone can be suffering from a herniated disc without any symptoms.
Herniated discs also tend to only affect one part of the body, and it’s dependent on the location of the affected area on the spine and if a nerve is being pressed on. If you ever have pain in your spinal cord (whether you’ve suffered an injury or otherwise), seeking medical attention as soon as possible is the best course of action. Although a neck or back injury may seem minor due to whatever symptoms you’re exhibiting, they can degrade quickly if left untreated for a long period.
Causes and Risk Factors
As mentioned, suffering from a herniated disc tends to be something that affects older individuals. This is because, as humans age, there is natural wear and tear that occurs in the body, and this natural erosion can result in medical problems. Additionally, age also makes the discs less flexible and more prone to tearing.
If you are older, overweight, have a physically demanding job, smoke, sit in the same position for many hours (such as if you’re a truck driver), or otherwise remain sedentary in the same spot, you are more likely to suffer from a herniated disc as you age.
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In many cases, if you're one of the people who suffer from symptoms with your herniated disc(s), there are medications and anti-inflammatories you might be recommended to take. Chiropractic, physical therapy, and steroid injections are always options when it comes to neck and back or spinal injuries and spine pain, and in more severe cases, your orthopedic doctor may recommend that you undergo surgery to fix the herniated disc.
A herniated disc may be a problem that many face as they age, but it’s one that they don’t have to suffer from. Back pain and neck pain can be so debilitating and take a toll on everyday life and activities, but fortunately you don’t have to continue suffering. Our orthopedic physicians are spine specialists and can help you get back to feeling like yourself. Schedule your initial consultation today!
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