This refers to pain coming from the lower back region of the body. The most common cause of this condition is herniated (slipped) disc which would be treated thoroughly throughout the course of this article.
What Is a Herniated Disc?
To fully understand this, we have to delve deeper into the world of the Spinal Column.
The Spinal Column is made up of bones called the vertebrae which are stacked onto each other. There are 24 bones in the spinal column. Namely;
The cervical spine contains 7 bones
The thoracic spine contains 12 bones
And the coccyx sitting at the base
The vertebras are cushioned by discs. The discs help in protecting the bones by acting as shock absorbers. It absorbs all the shock gotten from daily activities like walking, lifting and twisting.
Every disc has two parts: a soft, gelatinous inner portion and a strong outer ring. Injury can cause the soft inner portion to protrude through the outer ring. This condition is referred to as Slipped, Herniated or Prolapsed Disc.
What Are the Symptoms of a Herniated Disc?
Herniated disc can occur anywhere in the spine, from the neck to the lower back region. However, the lower back is the preferred region where this condition occurs.
Symptoms of A Herniated Disc Includes;
- Pain is constantly experienced when walking very short distances
- There is unexplained muscle weakness
- Presence of tingling, aching, or burning sensation in the affected area of the body.
- After standing or sitting, pain is being felt
- The pains usually extend to the arms or legs
- There is numbness on the affected side of the body, mostly on just one side.
Due to the difference in body physiology, the pain varies from person to person.
What Causes Herniated Discs?
Like I mentioned earlier, herniated discs occur when the ring becomes weak or ruptured and allows the soft inner portion to slip out. A lot of things or factors come into play in trying to know the actual cause of a Herniated Disc.
- Living sedentary lifestyle
- Old age
- Being over-weight
- Lifting very large objects
- The kind of job the person does
- Poor exercising
How Can Herniated Disc Be Diagnosed?
Performing a physical exam is usually the first step in getting a proper diagnosis. The aim of the physical examination is to look out for areas that are in grave pain and to know where the patient experiences high level of discomfort.
When carrying out physical examination, the doctor will ask to know the medical history; to ascertain if it is genetic, or to know whether it is due to an underlying condition. And the doctor might ask to know about daily routines. This is done to get to the root cause of the pain.
Imaging tests would help the doctor as well. By viewing the bones and muscles of the spine, fishing out the affected areas becomes easy. Examples of imaging scans includes;
- CT Scans
- MRI Scans
Are There Any Complications from A Herniated Disc?
Well, the answer is YES. When left untreated, a herniated disc can lead to permanent damage of the affected nerve. In extremely rare cases, a herniated disc can prevent the flow of nerve impulses to the cauda equine nerve which is found in the lower back and legs. The resultant effect of this is loss of bowel and bladder control.
A long term complication of herniated disc is Saddle Anesthesia. In this condition, the herniated dis compresses the spinal nerves and causes the loss of sensations to the inner thighs, back of the legs, and around the rectum.
How Can Herniated Disc Be Treated?
One might suffer a lot of pain whilst battling with a herniated disc, but undergoing the right treatment program would relieve the symptoms.
Treatment programs include Medication, Therapy and Surgery.
However, the treatment typically balls down to the level of pain and discomfort the person is experiencing and how far the disc has slipped or moved out of place.
Some people often get relieved from pains that accompanies a herniated disc by using Exercise Therapies that stretches and strengthens the affected area in the back and surrounding muscles.
Making use of OTC drugs (anti-inflammatory) and also avoiding the lifting of heavy objects can also help.
If the herniated disc does not respond to OTC drugs, then stronger medications like muscle relaxant etc. would be prescribed by the doctor.
Lastly, surgery may be recommended by the doctor if the pain from the herniated disc does not subside on or before six weeks and also if muscle function becomes greatly affected.