Treatment for a Herniated (slipped) Disc

A herniated disc (also called bulged, slipped or ruptured) occurs when part of the nucleus pushes outward through a tear in the annulus. Discs that become herniated usually are in an early stage of degeneration. 

Herniated discs can occur in any part of the spine but are more common in the lower back (lumbar spine), but also occur in the neck (cervical spine). The displaced disc presses on the spinal nerves, and often causes pain, numbness, or weakness. 

If you have a sharp, shooting pain, numbness or tingling in your arm or down one leg, book an appointment with a Biokineticist at The Back Clinic.

Symptoms of a herniated disc 

Most disk herniations occur in the lower back, but they can also occur in the neck. Signs and symptoms depend on where the disk is located and whether the disk is pressing on a nerve. Herniated disks usually affect one side of the body. 

·        Lower back – In addition to pain in your lower back, you usually feel pain in your buttocks, thigh and calf. You may also have pain in part of your foot.

·        Neck – You usually feel most of the pain in your shoulder and arm. The pain may radiate down your arm or leg when you cough, sneeze, or hold certain positions. The pain is often described as sharp or burning. 

Other symptoms: 

·        Numbness or tingling – People with a herniated disk often have radiating numbness or tingling in the part of the body supplied by the affected nerves.

·        Weakness – The muscles supplied by the affected nerves tend to become weaker. This can cause you to stumble or affect your ability to lift or hold objects. 

You may have a herniated disk without symptoms. You may not know you have a herniated disk until it shows up on a spinal scan. 

Causes of a herniated disc 

A herniated disk is usually the result of gradual, age-related wear and tear known as disk degeneration. With age, the disks become less flexible and are more prone to rupture or tear, even with a minor strain or twisting. 

Sometimes a herniated disk can occur from using the back muscles instead of the leg and thigh muscles when lifting heavy objects, or from twisting and turning while lifting. Less commonly, a traumatic event such as a fall or blow to the back is the cause. 

Treatment for a herniated disc 

Treatment with rest, pain medications, spinal injections, and physiotherapy is the first step toward recovery. Most people improve within 6 weeks and can return to normal activities. If symptoms persist, surgery may be recommended.

Rest – Initial treatment of a herniated disc is usually conservative and non-surgical. Your doctor may advise you to maintain a low, pain-free activity level for a few days to weeks. This helps the inflammation of the spinal nerve to recede. Bed rest is not recommended. 

Medication – A herniated disc is often treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs when the pain is mild to moderate. An epidural steroid injection can be performed with a spinal needle under x-ray guidance to direct the medication to the exact level of the herniated disc. 

Biokinetics – Biokineticists often play an important role in the recovery of herniated discs. Not only do their methods provide immediate pain relief, but they also teach you how to condition your body to avoid further injury. Biokinetics may include pelvic traction, gentle massage, ice and heat therapy, ultrasound, electrical muscle stimulation and stretching exercises. Pain medications and muscle relaxants may also be helpful in conjunction with physical therapy. 

Treatment at The Back Clinic includes the DBC program, which involves a multidisciplinary approach that develops a customised program based on your specific diagnosis and health history to achieve optimal results. Active treatments help improve flexibility, posture, strength, core stability and joint movement.

Surgery – For 9 out of 10 people, herniated discs can get better on their own over time or with non-surgical treatment. However, if other treatments do not relieve symptoms, your doctor may recommend surgery. 

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Some of the Medical Aids that cover treatment.

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