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Made up of 33 individual bones, the spine is a set of interconnected bones that provides support for the whole body. Between each bone are discs serving as comfortable support and cushion for the spine. Each disc is round with a tough outward layer that protects and supports the nucleus. Each disc acts as a disc absorber and is located in the middle of the vertebra.
A herniated disc is a bulged, ruptured, or slipped or slipped fragment of a nucleus disc brought up to the outer layer of the bones going to the spinal canal. In return, it affects your spinal canal because it only has limited space. The fragments of the disc also affect your spinal nerve, forcing it to displace. The disc can contract, and it can also press against the spinal nerve, causing intense pain. A herniated disc can be caused by wear and tear due to ageing, also called disc degeneration.
A herniated disc is different from a bulging disc. A disc bulge is also called a disc prolapse. This injury occurs when the nucleus breaks through to the annulus, but the annulus remains intact. However, a disc bulge can also put pressure on the spinal canal and compress the nerve root.
A herniated disc can occur in any part of the spine, irritating the spinal nerve, although the most common location is the lumbar region. Depending on the location, it can result in numbness and pain, and can make the legs and arms weak.
How Do You Know You Have A Herniated Disc?
The lower back and the neck are the primary affected area of herniated discs. The symptoms and the signs depend on the location of the disc that presses on the spinal nerve. In most cases, it affects only one side of the body.
- Numbness. Individuals who suffer from a herniated disc suffer from radiated numbness, especially in areas that affect the nerves. The feeling of numbness is centered around the affected disk, and affects the general area around it.
- Arm and Leg Pain. If you have a herniated disc located in the lower back or lumbar region, you will experience pain and irritation in your buttocks, calf, and thigh, including your feet. If it is located in your neck, you will experience pain in your arms and shoulders. You directly experience the pain once you cough, sneeze, or even move to another position. Pain is associated and described as a feeling of burning and touching sharp objects.
- Muscle Weakness. The muscles that affect the nerves weaken. It affects your productivity, and you become prone to stumble as you do your daily chores. Carrying or lifting heavy objects may not be possible.
- Herniated discs appear even without symptoms, and you will not notice it unless you undergo a specific test or x-ray examination. A visit to a chiropractor can also help in diagnosing a herniated disc. Chiropractic practice can alleviate the pain and help relieve the pressure on the disc and spine. In the worse case, surgery may be required. However, most instances of herniated discs resolve themselves over time. If after several months, the pain has not subsided, a more radical approach may be necessary.
- Back Pain. A herniated disc on the lumbar region can cause back pain, especially if it has worsened. There are other instances when the pain can feel worse. Driving, sitting, bending forward, sneezing and coughing can bring stabbing pain to the spine. When you experience back pain, or the pain feels worse while doing any of the above activities, it is best to seek assistance from your health practitioner.
What Causes Herniated Discs?
The primary causes of disc herniation is ageing, and the wear and tear process known as disc degeneration. As a person grows older, the spine tends to become less flexible, and the discs become prone to tearing and breaking apart. A herniated disc can occur even if you are only suffering from minor twists or strains.
A person can have a herniated disc due to the lifting of heavy objects by using the back muscles, instead of the thigh and leg muscles. It happens because when raising a heavy object, the body twists and rotates, and if the lifting is not done properly, the spine suffers. Accidents like falls and crashes can also cause a herniated disc.
What are the things that you can do to Prevent Herniated Discs?
Helping your body requires discipline and effort. The following are the ways that can help prevent a herniated disc.
- Regular Exercise. Strengthening and mobilizing the trunk muscles supports and stabilizes the spine. It lowers the tendency of having herniated discs, and it even helps regulate the body’s functions. It also increases productivity and helps perform effectively and efficiently.
- Maintain good posture. Having a good posture reduces the stress on the spine, especially the discs. Ensuring a straight back and proper alignment, especially while sitting or standing for an extended period. Make sure to lift things correctly, by putting pressure on your legs. It is essential to make sure that the body is relaxed to avoid certain complications.
- Regulate your Weight. Having excess weight increases the pressure on the discs and spine, which increases the possibility of herniation. Regulating body weight also increases productivity, allowing the body to move more effectively.
- Quit Smoking. Avoiding tobacco products can reduce the possibility of lung disease. The lungs are connected to the spine in the sense that it delivers oxygen. Once your nerves weaken, it can damage the spine and discs.
What are the Risk Factors
The following are the factors that significantly increase the probability of a herniated disc:
- Age and Gender. Men aged 30 to 50 are more likely to suffer from a herniated disc than women. The chances of having this kind of injury are reduced for men older than 50 because of their decreased activity.
- Body Weight. Having an excess body weight puts additional stress on the lower back. There is more pressure on the discs and it also slows down the individual. This is especially true of those with a beer belly, or are obese. The additional weight puts more pressure on the spine. Also, there is an inherent imbalance because of the fat distribution. In some instances, this forces poor posture, where the body compensates because of the front-heavy weight.
- Genetics. In some instances, herniated discs are transferred through the genes. Some people have a predisposition that makes the body vulnerable to this disease. If your parents, siblings or other close relatives have suffered from a herniated disk, then there is a distinct chance of having it as well.
- Excessive Smoking. Smoking significantly affects your lungs, and once your lungs are involved, it reduces the supply of oxygen that goes through to the disc. This situation then hastens the breaking down and tearing apart of the discs. Also, studies have shown that smoking leads to brittle bones.
- Occupation. Individuals who are into physical labor are more prone to back injuries or problems. It involves repetitive pulling, pushing, lifting, twisting, and bending sideways. This increases the risk of acquiring herniated discs.
- Sports. There are some sports activities where a herniated disk is a common occurrence. These include athletic events like long jump, triple jump, hurdles, high jump, as well as most other intense sports activities like basketball, football, skateboarding, skiing, and others. Rodeo riders and jockeys also suffer from herniated disks. Any intense regular activity where the person engages in a rapid body acceleration and deceleration can have this kind of injury. Sports car drivers, or motorcycle riders are also at risk from herniated disks.
Complications And Risks You Should Know About
Consult your doctor, and ask for immediate medical attention if you suffer from the following:
- Bowel Dysfunction. Herniated discs affect the nerves, which significantly affects the bladder. It can cause difficulty in urinating, and can also cause bowel incontinence.
- Saddle Anesthesia. There is the sensation of loss of feeling; it greatly affects the thighs, areas around the rectum, and the back of the legs.
When you experience any of the symptoms of this injury, you should schedule a checkup with your family doctor or your chiropractor. As mentioned earlier, there are instances when there are no symptoms to the injury.
However, a chiropractor would be able to detect a herniated disc during a regular visit.