What is a Herniated Discs?
I am sure many of us have experienced back pain in our life-times, but did you know that the leading cause of back pain is due to herniated discs? It is estimated that 2% of the population end up with a herniated disc every year!
You may be wondering what a disc is? Also known as an intervertebral disc (IVD) is a fibrocartilage cushion between two vertebrae in the spine. The human spine has 23 discs; 6 in the cervical spine (neck), 12 in the thoracic spine (middle back), and 5 in the lumbar spine (lower back).
The purpose of the disc is to allow greater flexibility in the spine without compromising for strength, as well as shock-absorbing during movement.
The anatomy of the disc contains three components being the inner nucleus pulposus, the outer annulus fibres, and the cartilage endplates that connect the disc to the vertebrae. The inner nucleus pulposus is a gel-like structure that accounts for the flexibility and strength of the spine, so it is a very important part of the disc, the spine, and our bodies physical health!
When a disc becomes herniated the inner nucleus pulposus becomes detached from the intervertebral space. This usually occurs when a tear takes place in the outer annulus fibres leading to the gel-like inner material leaking out.
Symptoms of a herniated disc include:
- Burning and stinging pain.
- Pain may radiate into the extremities.
- Feelings of weakness.
- Changes in sensation.
- Loss of bladder/bowel control.
- Changes to gait pattern – tip-toe walking, antalgic or Trendelenburg gait.
- Muscles spasms.
- Muscle atrophy.
These are due to the impingement on the local neural structures around the disc that the leak compresses on.
Herniated discs are most common in the lumbar spine and can be caused by…
- Degeneration due to aging.
- Trauma to the spine.
- Pathological conditions/disease.
- A sedentary lifestyle, poor posture, obesity, and smoking.
- Repetitive mechanical movements such as twisting and bending.
When diagnosed with a herniated disc they can be classified into different stages:
To diagnose a herniated disc a physical examination is done to detect any abnormalities and perform specialised tests, followed by imaging.
First medical treatment for a herniated disc is to try NSAID’s or steroid medication alongside physical therapy before any surgeries are considered by a spinal consultant.
Therefore why not come to see us here at Clearcut Physiotherapy to begin your treatment journey to pain free, fearless and thoughtless movement!