Preventing Herniated Discs: Treatments and Symptoms

Apr 10, 2023

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Herniated discs are a common medical condition that affects the spine. It is estimated that up to 80% of adults will experience some form of back pain at some point in their lives, and herniated discs are one of the leading causes of this pain.

At Garden State Pain and Orthopedics we offer a variety different minimally invasive treatments for back pain and herniated discs. 

What is a herniated disc?

The spine is made up of vertebrae, which are separated by discs. These discs act as shock absorbers, allowing the spine to move and providing cushioning between the vertebrae. A herniated disc, also known as a slipped or ruptured disc, occurs when the outer layer of a disc tears, causing the soft inner layer to bulge out. This can put pressure on the spinal nerves, causing pain, numbness, and weakness in the affected area.

Symptoms of a herniated disc

The symptoms of a herniated disc depend on the location of the affected disc. In most cases, the pain is felt in the lower back or neck, and can radiate down into the legs or arms. Other symptoms may include:

  • Numbness or tingling in the affected area
  • Muscle weakness
  • Difficulty walking or standing for long periods of time
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control (in severe cases)

What causes a Herniated Disc?

Herniated discs are most commonly caused by wear and tear on the spine due to aging, although they can also be caused by trauma, such as a fall, car accident, or improper technique when lifting weights. Other risk factors for herniated discs include:

  • Obesity
  • Poor posture
  • Repetitive lifting or bending
  • Smoking

Diagnosis of a herniated disc

If you are experiencing back pain or other symptoms of a herniated disc, your doctor will likely perform a physical exam and take a medical history. They may also order imaging tests, such as an X-ray or MRI, to confirm the diagnosis and determine the location and severity of the herniated disc.

Treatment options for a herniated disc

The treatment for a herniated disc depends on the severity of the condition and the location of the affected disc. In most cases, conservative treatments are recommended before considering more invasive options. These may include:

  • Rest: Resting the affected area and avoiding activities that aggravate the pain can help reduce inflammation and relieve symptoms.
  • Physical therapy: A physical therapist can develop an exercise program to strengthen the muscles supporting the affected area, which can help reduce pain and prevent future injuries.
  • Pain relief medications: Over-the-counter pain medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, may help relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
  • Heat or ice: Applying heat or ice to the affected area can help reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Epidural injections: In some cases, an injection of a corticosteroid into the affected area may be recommended to reduce inflammation and relieve pain.
  • Surgery: If conservative treatments do not provide relief, surgery may be recommended. The most common surgical procedure for a herniated disc is a microdiscectomy, which involves removing the affected portion of the disc to relieve pressure on the spinal nerves. 

Prevention of a herniated disc

While not all herniated discs can be prevented, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing this condition. These include:

  1. Maintaining a healthy weight: Obesity can put extra strain on the spine, increasing the risk of a herniated disc. 
  2. Practicing good posture: Sitting or standing with proper posture can help reduce strain on the spine and prevent injuries. Properly strengthening muscles in your back can help improve your posture and decrease risk of herniated discs. 
  3. Using proper lifting techniques: When lifting heavy objects, use your legs to lift rather than your back. Lifting heavy, large, and awkward objects for work, or performing certain heavy exercises like deadlifts can increase your chance on a herniated disc. The best way to prevent injury would be asking for help, lifting with your legs, and using proper technique. 
  4. Do not smoke: Smoking makes your body cough, and excessive, violent coughing can cause traumatic movements that injure your back. 

If you suffer from back pain, there is a chance you have a herniated disc. If you or a loved one are experiencing pain select “Book Now” to schedule a consultation with one of our pain management professionals. For more information about our pain management services, click here