Herniated Disc Definition - What is Herniated Disc

Herniated Disc (Prolapsed Intervertebral Disc), is a disorder of the spine. The discs between the bones of the spine (vertebrae) are composed of gristle-like fibrous tissue with a soft center.
A disc can rupture as a result of strain, allowing its soft center to pass through the ruptured outer fiber.
The soft tissue protrudes into and compresses the spinal canal, which contains the spinal cord.
Pressure on the spinal nerves produces pain, felt either locally (backache) or as referred pain in another part of the body, as in sciatica.
Muscle weakness, paralysis of muscle function, and loss of sensation is possible in severe cases.
In childhood and adolescence, the discs are flexible and pliable, and so strain at this stage is unlikely.
The discs harden in later life, and the soft centers gradually solidify.
By the age of 45 or 50 the center is of the same tough composition as the outer edge.
The discs of the neck (cervical region) and those of the lower spine (lumbar region) are the most likely to rupture because they are the most mobile.
A herniated disc in the thoracic pine, behind the chest, can occur in rare cases.

Symptoms of Herniated Disc

Symptoms of herniated disc in neck is usually the result of a twisting injury that develops into a stiff neck.
The pain is intense when the patient tries to move or cough.
Gradually the pain spreads as the disk presses on the nerves that affect one shoulder and arm.
Loss of sensation in the skin and muscle weakness may develop because of nerve damage.
If the disc protrudes deeply into the spinal cord, there is loss of sensation lower down the body.
It may cause disruption in the nerves controlling walking, or it may cause difficulty in urinating.

The symptoms in the lower spine are usually caused by a herniated disk either between the fourth and fifth lumbar vertebrae or between the fifth lumbar and first sacral vertebrae.
There is severe pain in the back, making it difficult to move.
The pain gradually improves over a matter of days.
The back pain may be followed by sciatica, with shooting pain going down one buttock, the thigh, leg, and foot.
A tingling sensation is common and is aggravated by coughing, sneezing, or bending.
The patient walks with a limp because of spasms in the back muscles, and he or she is unable to raise the affected leg at right angles to the body.

A herniated disk higher in the lumbar region causes pain in the groin and in the front of the thigh.

Osteoarthritis, tumors of the spinal cord, and secondary tumors of the vertebrae produce similar symptoms to those of a herniated disc. Cervical rib trouble may produce disk-like pains down an arm. Spondylolisthesis, in which one vertebra slips forward on another, and ankylosing spondylitis cause similar back pains.

Herniated Disc Treatment

Painkilling drugs may be prescribed in mild cases.
A herniated disk in the neck usually involves immobilizing the neck with a stiff collar. This helps the patient sleep or drive a car without too much pain.
In addition, anti-inflammatory drugs, physiotherapy in the form of short-wave diathermy and massage, and in severe cases, hospitalization and continuous traction may be recommended.
If conservative measures fail, surgical removal of the herniated disk may be necessary.

Herniated disk in the lumbar region is treated with rest, painkillers, and anti-inflammatory drugs. Strict bed rest remains extremely important since even standing up dramatically increases the pressure upon the discs.
Traction and/or a surgical corset that immobilizes the spine are commonly used in severe cases.
Manipulative treatment, such as osteopathy, can also help in the treatment of a herniated disk by temporarily reducing pressure on the disk.

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