Thursday, April 25, 2024

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Chronic Pain Handbook: Herniated Disk

Pain comes in a number of forms and from a large array of causes. One of the frequent questions we field at Republic Pain Specialists is in regards to herniated discs. We know if a patient is inquiring about this issue they are in a large amount of pain and can use the relief we provide, fast.

What is a herniated disc?

In between the vertebrae of your spine there are cushion pads, also called discs. These discs are flat and round and provide the cushion your body needs for movement throughout your day. They act as the spinal column’s shock absorbers for all the work your body does. The disc is made of a jelly like nucleus and a fibrous outer ring. A herniated disc occurs when inflammation from sudden injury or improper repetitive movement causes an abnormal shape to the nucleus, putting pressure on the outer ring. Further damage can cause chemicals to be released causing pain or the disc can bulge to such an extent the pressure impacts nearby nerves or the spinal cord itself. Symptoms are frequently lower back pain, numbness or a tingling sensation in the leg or foot, sharp pain shooting down the leg, or, in some serious cases, loss of bladder or bowel control. A simple exam in office can detect a herniated disc most of the time with a small number of patients needing imaging to confirm or diagnose. 

What treatments are there?

For minor cases, rest can allow the inflammation to decrease and for pain to be relieved. By allowing the body to completely rest for a day or two, you may be able to resume regular activities with controlled movements and rest breaks throughout your day. Pay particular attention to how items are lifted and your posture when sitting or standing. For repeat injuries, physical therapy, strength training, and some yoga activities can help strengthen weak muscles and train your body the proper way to move to decrease the amount of strain on the discs. Republic has several trusted groups we partner with to help evaluate if this option would work for you. Another non-surgical way we provide relief would be to consider an epidural injection to reduce inflammation and help the body heal. 

What can I do?

According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, the likelihood of a disc herniating again is 5-10%. Other factors that impact the chance of this pain repeating are being male, improper lifting, carrying excess weight, being in a field of repetitive movement, and having a sedentary lifestyle. Additionally, “it is believed that smoking lessons the oxygen supply to the disc and causes more rapid degeneration.” We recommend to all of our family and friends to maintain a healthy lifestyle with regular activity and exercise habits dispersed throughout the day and week. Also, in all fields, not just those with repetitive movements, consider looking at ergonomics to improve your comfort and productivity. 

We have the resources to get you back to your regular day-to-day with non-opioid and non-surgical intervention. To assess whether we can help relieve your pain or to speak with one of our providers about a different type of pain you have been experiencing, please contact us today. 




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