Back pain is a condition that often affects people who lead sedentary lifestyles. If you also don’t go to the doctor for check up from time to time, even because of the usual scoliosis, there can be risk of a complication which is a herniated disc, which will be much more difficult to treat.
What is an intervertebral hernia?
Intervertebral discs reduce pressure between the vertebrae and a hernia is the process by which their nuclei protrudes into the spinal canal. This is due to the destruction of the fibrous ring that usually surrounds the disk and evenly distributes the pressure. If it collapses on one side, the nucleus of the intervertebral disk will come out.
The pain is as a result of pinching of the nerve roots near the vertebrae. The nerve fibres are connected with the spinal cord and for this reason, the pain is not only felt on the back but it can also radiate to the arms an legs.
Herniated disc can attack any part of the spine. The localization will be caused by shooting or pulling pain as the site where the cartilage is destroyed. The affected area can become large and painful during movements. Moreover, it comes with various symptoms such as:
- Nagging pain in the limbs, shoulders or chest.
- Reduced mobility of the spine.
- Reduced sensitivity and weakness in the muscles in the legs or arms.
- Neurological disorders such as headaches, insomnia, blood pressure change, weakness, dizziness.
- Disorders of the functions of the genitourinary system and intestines.
The signs and symptoms depend on the location of the hernia. Pain around the shoulders, numbness and weakness of the hands is a sign that the cervical region is damaged. If the intervertebral discs are destroyed, there will be problems of the intestines and pelvic organs. Numbness and pain will be radiated to the hips and feet.
What develops a herniated disc?
Degenerative processes of intervertebral discs, as well as many other diseases of the spine, are caused by our unnatural position of the skeleton. Most of it is exposed to the process of destruction especially in the lumbar-sacrum region: that supports the whole mass of the person.
If you are healthy and you regularly practice physical activity, then you have nothing to fear. However, if you have a history of spinal diseases such as osteochondrosis, you have weakly developed back muscles or you have recently been injured, the chances if getting a hernia are very high.
Moreover, the destruction of fibrous rings contributes to excess weight. The vertebrae has been exposed to a lot of pressure and when the body weight is high, it may not bear the load. The development of hernia is also influenced by factors such as weakened body due to old age, autoimmune diseases and impaired metabolism. All these affect the strength of the cartilage and the bones of the spines.
How to diagnose
Diseases of the spine such as hernia are diagnosed by an orthopaedist and neurologist. You can also visit other specialists such as a neurosurgeon who will perform the operation if there is need. You may also be referred to a physiotherapist for conservative treatment, a massage therapist and a doctor who specializes in LFC.
Visual examinations contribute very little in the diagnosis of a hernia. The doctor will of course ask about the symptoms but some of them are similar to other diseases. Chest pain and numbness of the limbs can cause diseases of internal organs or of the brain and for this reason you will need to undergo an X-ray of the spine. This will help in diagnosis of a condition related to the vertebrae or if the symptoms are for a completely different disease.
If the X-ray confirm that there is a deformity if the intervertebral disc, then you will undergo more detailed tests to examine the spinal cord and the near by nerves such as:
- MRI of the spine is considered to be the best type of diagnosis, as the image will show soft tissues, nerve roots and the structure of the spinal cord.
- CT of the spine is much more often used in case of suspected injuries. CT scans are performed faster than an MRI, but has various limitations.
How can a hernia be cured?
Small protrusions in the intervertebral discs are treated conservatively. You may be prescribed for a variety of drugs such as:
- Painkillers which will help you to cope with discomfort.
- Anti-inflammatory drugs which will stop pathological processes.
- Vitamin and mineral complexes which will help to strengthen cartilage and bone tissue.
The best treatment for a hernia that is in its early stages is physiotherapy which incudes massage, electrophoresis and manual therapy. Regular exercise is also recommended as well as use of a corset and a bandage to limit movements.
If therapy for several months does not show any improvements, then regardless of the stage, surgery should be done. If the disease was in its early stages, recovery time will be shorter.
Prevention and recommendations
Just like other degenerative diseases of the spine, the main prevention of the spine is having a healthy mobile lifestyle. If you have discomfort and mild pain, do not hesitate to go for medical check up. Any damage to the back can cause the destruction of the vertebrae and intervertebral discs.
If you have been diagnosed with hernia, you should take good care of your back and avoid loading it. Women who have a herniated spine and want to have children should wear supporting corsets. If you have gone through treatment and you need to maintain a healthy lifestyle, you limit your movements and be careful when weight lifting. Even if you are feeling well, you should strictly follow the intrscution sof the doctor to avoid complicatoons, surgery and long recoevry.