What is a herniated disc?
A herniated disc is a condition where the disc in the back is slipped or ruptured leading to low back pain ruptured disc and herniated disc leg pain.
Disc and ruptured disc
Discs are layer of cartilage (soft cushions) found between the vertebrae that make up the spinal column (the backbone). Disc does not made up of veins or nerves like other parts of the skeletal structure. Instead, discs are consisting of fat, water, and tissues that join to the skeletal structure.
The disc at the back spinal column divides the skeletal structures. In the middle of the spinal column is the spinal canal, a hollow space that holds the spinal cord. The nerves from the spinal cord supply the arms, leg, and torso while the nerves from the neck supply the arms and hands, and the nerves from the low back supply the butt and legs. The discs between the vertebrae allow the back to move freely and function as the shock absorbers.
The disc is made up of two primary sections. Discs exterior are covered by “Annulus Fibrosis.” This outer part (the annulus) is comprised of tough cartilage that is comprised of series of rings. While the inner area of the disc is shielded by a jelly-like substance called the “Nucleus Pulposis.” The pulp makes up the hub of the disc, which is polished and soft. The discs make up the main supporting force that controls the spinal column, bones, muscles, etc.
Throughout the day, the discs leak water, which is a result of the forces of gravity. For example, the gravity force upon sit down; one might think that it takes little effort to sit, but the true is it adds a lot of weight to the spine and disc. The disc replaces water that has leaked out during the day at a slow pace. Fat and water is also balanced in the discs.
Causes of herniated disc or ruptured disc
Discs are mainly comprised of water. Originally, fat and water inside the discs are thick, but when a person starts aging (over the age of 30), the substances begin to thin, so the discs begin to shrink and lose their shape. When the disc becomes smaller the space between the vertebrae decreases and become narrower. Also, as the disc loses water content the disc itself becomes less flexible. This can lead to osteoarthritis. Thinning water and fat of the disc is also the leading cause of back pain, especially low back pain.
While aging, excess weight, improper power lifting and the decrease in water in the discs all contribute to the breaking down of discs, the primary cause of a herniation or bulge is uneven compression and torsion that’s placed on the discs.
This uneven pressure is caused by disproportions in muscles that pull the spine out of its normal position and then the body is forced to work in a physical dysfunction situation. Overtime, these dysfunctions will cause enough damage to create pain.
A disc starts to herniate or rupture when part of the jelly center pushes through the outer wall of the disc into the spinal canal, and puts pressure on the nerves. A ruptured disc often causes low back pain. A disc bulges when the jelly substance pushes the outer wall but doesn’t completely go through the wall.
Moreover, when the disc is not covering the spinal structures it is often dehydrated, pressured, or deformed. The disc has the strength and flexibility to hold out against high loads of pressure, but when that flexibility and strength is obstructed, it can result to ruptured disc, or other injuries.
Do I have a herniated disc?
Sufferers of herniated disc usually experience some degree of uncomfortable symptoms thus you may get some clue by comparing the symptoms you’re suffering now with some common symptoms of herniated disc. If you suspect you’re indeed a herniated disc sufferer, you should continue with a physical test, a simple x-ray or MRI of herniated disc for more accurate diagnosis.
Symptoms of herniated disc
The most common symptom of ruptured disc is “sciatica”. Sciatica is a sharp, usually shooting pain that starts in the buttocks and goes down the back of one leg. This is often caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve that exits the spinal cord. Other symptoms include:
- Weakness in one leg or both legs
- Paralysis and tingling sensation in one leg
- A burning pain concentrated in the low back
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Back pain because of ruptured disc with gradually increasing herniated disc leg pain.
If you have weakness in both legs or loss your bladder control, seek medical advice immediately.
Diagnosing a herniated disc
Do I have a herniated disc? Well, your medical history is the key to a proper diagnosis. A physical test can usually find out which nerve roots are affected and how seriously. A simple x-ray may present evidence of disc or degenerative spine changes. A better option (but cost more) to determine which disc has herniated is an MRI of herniated disc (magnetic resonance imaging).
The best treatment options for a herniated disc
There're many treatment options for a ruptured disc from the traditional options, homeopathic treatment for herniated discs to medical treatments. Among these include ice/heat, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, cortisone injections, anti-inflammatory medications, minimal-repair technique and even extreme hernia surgery. While these may give some relief for herniated disc leg pain or back pain or other symptoms, their effects are often not long lasting if at all since they do not address the real cause of the problem.
For instance, even if you were to have a surgery and take some pain relief, the reality is the sources of the herniated discs still there and if not identified, they will continue to put uneven pressure and strain on the discs and sooner or later you will probably have another problem with that disc, or others.
Without addressing the actual cause of the problem, which is the physical dysfunctions caused by imbalances in muscles, herniated disc leg pain an low back pain ruptured disc will probably continue for years.
Unfortunately, most doctors, chiropractors and physical therapists don’t spend time or focus on addressing the physical dysfunctions that are the real cause for the disorder so many patient end up jumping from one useless treatment option to the next and suffer for months or years unnecessarily.
If you have been diagnosed with a herniated disc / ruptured disc, or are wondering if your leg pain and back pain may be caused by a herniated disc, either way you must identify and address the real physical dysfunctions that are triggering your pain.