What is a Ruptured or Herniated Disc?
The vertebrae forming the spine are cushioned by spongy, small discs. These discs are shock absorbers and make the spine flexible. Damage to the disc may cause it to break open or bulge. Such an impacted disc is called a herniated or ruptured disc. Herniated discs can affect the lower or upper back, or the neck.
Causes of Herniated Disc :
- Wear and tear due to age
- Injury to the spinal disc, resulting in cracks or tears in the outer layer.
Symptoms of Herniated Disc
If a herniated disc impacts nerves, it causes weakness, numbness and pain in the affected area. A ruptured disc located in the lower back leads to numbness and pain in the buttock and leg. This is known as sciatica. If you suffer from numbness or weakness in the legs, as well as loss of bowel and bladder control, see a doctor immediately. These are symptoms of a serious, but rare complication called cauda equina syndrome.
Diagnosis of Herniated Disc
Your physician will enquire about symptoms during examination. Sometimes, a CT scan or an MRI is required to confirm the malady.
Treatment of Herniated Disc
Take enough rest in case of severe pain. But, stay active by walking or indulging in other light activity. Heating and ice pads and warm showers are particularly helpful. Consult a physical therapist for exercises to keep the back muscles in condition. Ask your doctor for medication to treat the symptoms. The herniated disc usually heals on its own within a month. Sometimes, the healing may take up to six months. Only 10 percent of sufferers need surgery.
Prevention of Herniated Disc
Adopt good posture. If you lift weights, use your legs for support and not your back. Exercise regularly. Maintain an optimum weight to reduce the load on the back. Avoid smoking, as this increases the chances of a ruptured disc.