Herniated Disc Pain Management in Knoxville, TNA herniated disc, also called bulging, slipped or ruptured disc, is a common cause of back pain and is the biggest cause of sciatica (leg pain that originates in a spinal nerve root). It occurs when a soft tissue between the bones in the spine escapes into the surrounding areas. According to a 2019 review published in the British Medical Journal, 95% of disc herniations in individuals under 55 years old affect the lower back region. While a herniated disc itself might not always cause symptoms, if it happens to compress one of the spinal nerves it can become very painful and debilitating. In this article, we will explain the mechanics herniated disc condition and discuss its causes and all treatment options also available in Knoxville.
What is a herniated disc?Our spine is made up of 33 bones called vertebrae that support our body. Between the vertebrae lie the soft discs that provide flexibility and act as shock absorbers. These discs have a gel-like center which is surrounded by a cartilage ring. When we bend or twist our spine, one side of the disc gets compressed causing its contents to put pressure against the opposite side, stretching the ring wall. This can create a tear in the disc surface and cause the soft center to leak out, a process otherwise known as disc herniation. Coming out from both sides of the vertebrae are the nerves that emerge through narrow openings in the spine and travel to our arms and legs. When the soft center of the disc seeps out, it might end up compressing the nerve. A pinched nerve becomes inflamed and produces pain and other unpleasant symptoms.
What causes a herniated disc?One of the most common causes of herniated disks is trauma. A sports injury, a car accident, or using back muscles instead of legs to lift a heavy object can all put enough pressure on the disc to cause a herniation. Another common cause is spine degeneration. As we get older, our discs lose water content, making them drier and more prone to cracking and tearing. That means that even mild back movements, such as picking up a bag or swinging a golf club, can cause the disc to herniate.
How common is a herniated disc?Symptomatic herniated discs affect around 1-3% of the general population, but it’s estimated that up to a quarter of Americans might unknowingly have herniated discs that do not cause any symptoms. It is most common among people aged 30-50 years; men are twice as likely to have it as women. A herniated disc is the most common cause of radiculopathy (pinched nerve in the spinal column). You are at a higher risk of getting a herniated disc if you:
- Have a job that involves heavy lifting
- Are overweight as that adds extra pressure on your lower back
- Are a smoker as it may cause faster disc degeneration
- Have a sedentary lifestyle
SymptomsThe most common location for disc herniation is the lower back (lumbar) section, followed by the neck (cervical) section of the spine. When a herniated disc compresses a nerve, it may cause:
- Sharp shooting or burning pain radiating to the legs or arms.
- Numbness or tingling sensation, also known as paresthesia, that can radiate to legs or arms.
- Muscle weakness
DiagnosisTo diagnose a herniated disc a doctor will discuss the patient’s symptoms and medical history, as well as perform a physical examination. They will check the reflexes, range of motion, muscle strength, and whether there is any loss of sensation. A common way to diagnose a herniated disc in the lower back is a straight leg raise. As the patient is lying on their back, the doctor slowly raises the affected leg until the pain is reproduced. The position of the leg that triggers the pain can indicate a herniated disc as the cause. If the symptoms are severe or the pain persists after a few weeks, imaging techniques, in particular MRI scan, might be recommended to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other causes. It is also helpful when preparing for surgery as it accurately shows the location and degree of herniation.
How to treat herniated discs?The vast majority of disc herniation cases improve after a few weeks with minimal treatment, such as rest and over-the-counter painkillers (Ibuprofen, Tylenol). It is recommended to maintain some activity level and to avoid bed rest or sitting for long periods of time. Physical therapy can help improve the symptoms by strengthening the core muscles and increasing flexibility. If the pain is moderate to severe, steroid injections can help. This procedure releases anti-inflammatory steroid medication and a local anesthetic straight to the compressed nerve root and provides pain relief. It is also a common practice for a herniated disc in Knoxville Omega Pain Management clinic. In rare cases, if the symptoms continue to affect the patient’s quality of life after the non-surgical treatments, surgery may be considered. The most common surgical procedure to treat a herniated disk is discectomy – removal of the protruding part of the disc to relieve the pressure on the nerve. Other options include removing a part of the bone in the spine (laminectomy) or replacing a damaged disc with an artificial one (disc replacement).
ConclusionDisc herniation occurs when an excessive strain causes the disc to rupture and leak out compressing a neighboring nerve root. It can cause pain, numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness in the back as well as in the arms or legs depending on which nerve is affected. A physical exam and an MRI scan are the main methods of diagnosing this condition. Although the majority of disc herniations improve on their own, pain relief and, in rare cases, surgery might be necessary. If you think you might be suffering from a herniated disc, contact your doctor to receive help with diagnosis and pain management.
Herniated disc treatment in Knoxville, TNIf you’ve experienced pain in your back or lower back for more than six weeks, your pain is considered chronic. Chronic pain needs to be healed with the guidance of a competent physician. Effective treatment of herniated discs can reduce pain and increase your mobility. But it’s up to you to take charge of your recovery. If you’re looking for herniated disc treatment in a pain clinic in Knoxville, TN, contact Omega Pain Management, the comprehensive pain specialists. Just pick up the phone to make an appointment with Dr. Igor Smelyansky.
AANS. Herniated Disc. www.aans/en/Patients/neurological-conditions-and-treatments/herniated-disc. (2022)
Cleveland Clinic. Herniated Disk (Slipped, Ruptured, or Bulging Disk). my.clevelandclinic.org/health/disease/12768-herniated-disk. (2022)
Epidural Injections. www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info/epidural. (2021)