It’s always the same. Someone has back pain for years. They’re afraid to go to the doctor, but begrudgingly they go. The pain is unbearable because they let it go on for so long. Then the diagnosis of a herniated disc, their worst nightmare. Again, procrastination and denial put off the surgery, but taking pain relievers is not helping the same. They go in for surgery, heal quickly and say, “I wish I had done it sooner.”
A herniated disc occurs when some of the soft inner structure protrudes through the outer covering. The material is forced toward the surrounding tissue resulting in pain from pressure on the nerve. It’s more of a bulge than the nickname of “slipped disc” implies.
Vertebral discs serve as shock absorbers within the structure of the spinal column. In the event of an impact on the spine, they help to keep the vertebrae in alignment protecting the delicate nerves inside. Herniation occurs when too much pressure for the disc to handle, is introduced to the spinal column by way of a fall or other accident, degeneration over time, poor posture, heavy lifting or awkward bending.
The symptoms can range from numbness to severe pain. The location of the symptoms defines the location of the herniation. A herniated disc treatment Sarasota FL. begins with a diagnostic exam. A physical exam including medical history, nerve function testing, muscle weakness exam, and checking for pain in differing positions. After narrowing the possible area of protrusion an x-ray is performed in the region that correlates to the exam findings. A CT scan or MRI may be ordered for further analysis if necessary.
Once a concrete diagnosis is known, the physician can prescribe a plan of treatment. In most cases, a palliative approach is attempted as a first step. Controlling the pain can make physical therapy or spinal manipulations more bearable. If this moderate approach works well for the patient, the option of continuing this type of care may continue past the four to six weeks initially proposed.
There are times that this type of treatment is not enough, even after trying multiple approaches. Occasionally, it is a greater benefit to skip the palliative plan and go directly to surgery. Prolonging surgery can worsen the condition in either case. There are several surgical options to consider based on the severity and location of the herniation.
• Microdiscectomy – (also called microdecompression) is a minimally invasive procedure that removes the protruding part of the disc that is compressing the nerve. It is typically performed on the lumbar section of the spine.
• Anterior Cervical Discectomy- is the removal of the protrusion through the front of the neck. A Fusion procedure may be performed to provide stability.
• Posterior Cervical Discectomy – is the removal of the protrusion from the back of the neck using a microdecompression technique.
To avoid having a herniated disc is not always possible. A healthy lifestyle, regular exercise, good posture, and using the proper lifting techniques can help reduce the risk. If herniation does occur, don’t hesitate to get it checked out.