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slipped disc - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment

 Overview

A slipped disc, also known as a bulging or protruding disc, usually occurs in the lower back (lumbar) or in the neck area. The most common symptom of a herniated disc is pain that radiates to one side of the body. In some cases, people may experience numbness around the center of their back, buttock and legs on one side. The sensation may also be described as sciatica because it travels down through the sciatic nerve to those areas.

lower back pain, herniated disc, back muscle, slipped disc

Symptoms:

1. Back pain

2. Tingling

3. Numbness

4. Muscle weakness

5. Difficulty moving the affected area

6. Deep buzzing in the back or neck

7. Numbness and tingling from the affected area up the arm or leg 

When to see doctor?

-Severe pain

-Knee pain

-Deep pain in back or neck

-Pain in the buttocks or legs

To confirm a slipped disc, you need to pinch between your vertebrae, which can be painful. If there is resistance, it reflects a stuck disc that isn't moving properly. The squeezing of the disc also causes it to bulge and slip further out of place. Lumbar discs typically slip all the way out of place (a complete tear) after just a few months, because they are made from gel-like material that's designed to lubricate and cushion your spine. If a disc is slightly bulging, it may take several months to completely tear. These can be treated surgically.

Causes:

1. Aging:

As we age, the discs that act as cushions supporting our spine and vertebrae, begin to wear out and shrink. As they lose their shape, they also lose their cushioning effect.

2. Genetics:

Genetics plays a part in degeneration of the discs so a family history of back problems is significant in determining risk factors.

3.  Trauma:

Common causes include road accidents and sport injuries.

4.  Obesity:

Obesity causes greater pressure against the discs, which can increase risk of disc degeneration. Excess weight can create a bulging disc, while inactivity increases it by affecting the circulation of blood to the back muscles.

5. Postural factors:

The type of work we do or our body postures can all contribute to disc degeneration. These include sitting for long periods at a time, heavy lifting and using power tools. Sitting for long periods at a time puts strain on your vertebrae and pulls on your back muscles which can potentially lead to injury or damage to discs in your back.

6. Teenagers

Teenagers are more prone to injury as they are still growing, which can cause a herniated disc.

Diagnosis:

Wear your back belt so you can reveal the front of your lower back. This can be uncomfortable and you may feel some pain in the area, but if there's some resistance in the chest area on squeezing it, this indicates that there is a slipped disc. A physical exam will usually confirm the diagnosis by checking for symptoms and determining where they seem to come from.  

Treatment:

The treatment of a herniated disc relies on restoring its normal motion, reducing pressure against it and supporting its healing process . As it is a condition that is progressive, its treatment should start early in the day and continue for a few weeks after the initial injury.

The first step to take is with pain relief medications. You'll find non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen) and acetaminophen as effective pain relief. Increase the dose if you have nausea or vomiting as they can cause complications to your back which include hemorrhaging and tissue swelling. Seek medical advice if you are unsure what to do. Opioids are also recommended if your doctor thinks they may help you, although there are several other options that can be tried first. Dextropropoxyphene or codeine may help. The use of opioids could lead to addiction, so if you're not sure what to do, seek medical advice.

Physical therapy is the next step in your treatment. It is suggested by doctors that physical therapy treatment should start early to prevent further damage or worsening of the condition. Physical therapy can help you recover from muscle spasms, minimize pain and reduce your risk of "re-injury." The physical therapist will likely offer exercises for flexibility and strength building. Your physical therapist may also suggest using a support belt or brace for added stability and compression relieving your pain and aiding the healing process .

Sleeping positions are also important in treating a herniated disc because they can prevent pressure on the disc contents. You can prevent pressure by tucking your knees up and placing a pillow between your knees and thighs. You may also want to avoid sleeping on your stomach. This can cause pressure on the discs so you might want to avoid sleeping on your back for extended periods of time, especially if there is numbness or leg pain.

Prevention:

The best way to avoid a herniated disc is by exercising regularly, staying active, avoiding extreme body postures and keeping a healthy weight. There are several exercises that help strengthen your back and abdominal muscles including yoga, Pilates and swimming. It is important that you seek advice from your doctor or physical therapist before starting any exercise regime as it can be dangerous for people with slipped discs.

The ergonomic factors at work should also be checked to avoid aggravating your condition. Work surfaces should be lower than elbow height so that you can minimize the stress on your arms while sitting. If you're doing heavy lifting at work, use proper lifting techniques and make sure you're in good health before doing anything too strenuous.

When driving, you should sit with your back as straight as possible and avoid twisting or bending. This can apply to when playing sports. To protect your back while playing sports, avoid frequent stops by running around a lot during games.

If you have a slipped disc, it is important that you move around as much as possible so avoid sitting in the same position for long periods of time. Avoiding extreme body postures is also important to prevent future damage to discs and nerve roots. Finally, you should be aware of your diet and exercise routines if you have a slipped disc. If they need to change, do so slowly and carefully with advice from a doctor or physical therapist.

 

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