A herniated or bulging disc is one of the most common causes of lower back pain. Intervertebral discs are located throughout your spinal cord and essentially act as shock absorbers for your spine. Discs have a tough outer ring, called the annulus fibrosus, and a soft, jelly-like center, called the nucleus pulposus.
If the nucleus pushes against the exterior, either due to injury or normal wear and tear, it can cause a bulging or herniation of the disc. This puts pressure on both the spinal cord and nerve roots and causes nerve irritation and inflammation. Herniated disc pain generally starts with lower back or neck pain, which sometimes improves after a few days. Additional symptoms include sciatica pain, numbness or tingling in the leg or foot, and weakness in the pain or foot.
Herniated Disc Causes
A number of things can cause a herniated disc. The most common cause is disc degeneration due to natural wear and tear. As you age, the water content in your disc decreases, causing them to be less flexible. This decreased flexibility coupled with disc shrinking and the spaces between vertebrae narrowing increases the likelihood of having a herniated disc.
In addition to natural disc degeneration, a herniated disc can be caused by an injury or traumatic event, lifting heavy objects with your back, or twisting while lifting objects. Individuals that are overweight or have jobs that require regular heavy lifting are more prone to herniated discs. Additionally, genetics seem to play a role and some individuals are more prone to herniated discs than others.
Herniated Disc Treatment
The key to the proper treatment of a herniated disc is an accurate diagnosis, which is generally made through exams, tests, and sometimes spinal imaging. For most patients, herniated disc surgery is not necessary and a treatment plan including rest, over-the-counter pain medications, physical therapy, and minimally invasive procedures will effectively alleviate all pain within three to four months.
In his Encino, California office, Dr. Glaser often uses epidural steroid injections and spinal cord stimulation to treat patients with herniated disc pain. An epidural steroid injection is a minimally invasive procedure that delivers pain medication directly to the location of a patient’s pain. In addition to providing pain relief, these injections target inflammation, which is often the source of pain.
In more severe cases, spinal cord stimulation is necessary to provide patients with pain relief. Spinal cord stimulation uses electric pulses to dull the pain signals that the brain receives and, for many, is an effective way to get ongoing pain relief.
Even if these non-surgical treatments are not effective, Dr. Glaser can perform a minimally invasive discectomy to repair areas affected by a herniated disc. This procedure, called an endoscopic discectomy, not only provides pain relief but also provides a long-term solution for pain caused by a herniated disc.
Herniated discs are a common source for back and neck pain, but the good news is that there are a number of minimally invasive procedures to effectively treat this painful condition. If you are suffering from back or neck pain and are concerned you might have a bulging disc in your back, contact Glaser Pain Relief Center to schedule a consultation.