We all understand the beauty of leading an active lifestyle. However, there are instances where you may be forced to rethink your life choices. Back problems affect more than one person out of every ten people in the world. Some of these back pains do not need medical attention, as they fade away on their own. On the other hand, some can only be rectified through medical attention. A herniated disc is one of those back problems that require medical attention.
What is a Herniated Disc?
A herniated disc can occur anywhere along the spine. A spinal disk is made up of a soft jellylike nucleus enclosed in a rough rubbery exterior. The lower back is the most common culprit of herniated disks. A herniated disc occurs when one of the disks (cushions) that sit between the individual disks bones that make up the spine is dislocated; the soft tissue (nucleus) pushes out through the rubbery exterior. The condition is also known as a ruptured disk or slipped disk.
It can occur on any part of the spine. A herniated disk’s effects include pain, weakness, or numbness in arms or legs, depending on where the slipped disk is. Some people do not have any symptoms.
Causes of a herniated disc
Most people cannot tell why they have a slipped disk. Disk degeneration, which is the gradual wear and tear (caused by aging), is the most common cause of a herniated disk. Disks tend to become less flexible and prone to rupturing and tearing as years kick in.
You are at risk of ending up with ruptured disks when you use your back muscles to lift heavy objects. One should use the leg and thigh muscles during heavy lifting. Heavy turning and twisting are also other causes of slipped disks. It is rare to find a herniated disk caused by a traumatic event such as a blow or a fall.
The doctor will inspect your back muscles’ tenderness to determine if you are suffering from a slipped disk. The physician may request you to lie on your back and then move your legs to various positions. This approach will help determine the source of your pain.
The same physician may also perform neurological exams to check your reflexes, walking ability, muscle strength, and your ability to feel vibrations, light touches, and pinpricks. Checking your medical history and a physical exam might be all that is needed to detect if you have a herniated disc. However, if the doctor detects any other conditions, he may project you to imaging tests and nerve tests.
Treatments for herniated disc
It is the most common approach to treating most back pain problems.
- A doctor can recommend over-the-counter medications if you are suffering from mild to moderate pains.
- Muscle relaxers come in handy if you have muscle spasms. However, you may end suffering from dizziness and sedation.
- Opioids. They are excellent for pain relief. However, most doctors do not like prescribing these drugs due to their addiction effects.
- Cortisone injections are mostly used when the pain does not go away with medications. The injection is done to the nerves around the affected area. Spinal imaging comes in handy when you want to locate the nerves.
Research shows that very few people with herniated disk require surgery. Conservative approaches for herniated discs can take up to six weeks. The physician can recommend surgery if conservative treatments do not show any improvements. It can also be recommended in cases where the patient has: loss of bladder or bowel movement, difficulty walking or standing, numbness or weakness, and poorly controlled pain.
The surgeon, in most cases, removes only the protruding part of the disc. However, there are instances where he may have to do away with the entire disc and the vertebrae fused with a bone graft. The bone fusion takes months, and metal hardware may be inserted to provide stability.
Can one get back to the running track after surgery?
Some athletes are forced to retire from active sports due to back pains. Does it mean that all is lost when one suffers from a herniated disk? The beauty of some procedures such as spinal fusion surgery can help you get back on track, as herniated disc surgeon, Dr. Joshua Rovner notes.
However, this does not mean that you get back on track just after the procedure. The recovery journey is more of a marathon and not a sprint. You need to take care of your emotional and physical well-being during the recovery period. Learning how to walk before you run is the first step in the recovery path.
You can start by walking several miles in a day for the first few weeks. Do not attempt to run within the first month, but walking is okay. You can start increasing the intensity of your routines three months after the surgery. However, this should be guided by your surgeon or your physician.
You can then starting jogging in your neighborhood but still pay attention to your pain sources. Increase your speed gradually and the distance you cover. Low-impact exercises, such as swimming, can help you recover. The aim is to recondition your cardiovascular space without stressing your spine. This approach will make it easy to overcome challenges such as shortness of breath once you hit the running track.
Combine these routines with Swiss ball exercises to get your back muscles on track. Heed to the doctor’s advice on areas such as the miles you should cover and the best routines to try. Give your body enough time to rest after every exercise routine. Listening to your body also makes it easy to know when to stop and when to hit the road.
Suffering from a herniated disc is not a death sentence, as you can see from the above points. Analyze the source of your suffering and then choose the best treatment approach to take. It is also important to learn how to avoid reoccurrence by adopting preventive measures and leading an active lifestyle.