The disks are the rubbery cushions found in between the vertebrae. A herniated disk occurs when one of the disks is pushed out of its normal position. This condition can affect anyone of any age, but it is most common in people who are between the ages of 35 and 55. This problem can be very frustrating to deal with, but fortunately, there are many herniated disk treatment options available.
What are some of the symptoms?
Many people with a herniated disk do not have any signs or symptoms. Those who do have symptoms are likely to experience back pain, tingling in the affected area and muscle weakness. Some patients may also experience pain that radiates to their arms or legs.
Who is at risk for developing this condition?
Excess body weight can cause one of the disks to shift out of position. People who have a job that requires a lot of heavy lifting are also at an increased risk for developing a herniated disk.
What happens if a herniated disk is left untreated?
The symptoms will only continue to get worse if the herniated disk is not appreciated. Some patients may develop bladder or bowel incontinence. Saddle anesthesia is another complication that is associated with an untreated herniated disk. Saddle anesthesia is a condition that causes a person to lose sensation in the back of the legs, inner thighs and rectum.
What are some treatment options available?
Ninety percent of patients will respond to over-the-counter medication and a specialized exercise program. In fact, most people will get better within two months of treatment. Ibuprofen, Aleve and Tylenol are examples of medicines that can alleviate mild to moderate pain.
Most patients who have a herniated disk will be referred to a physical therapist. A physical therapist can show the patient exercises that can improve core strength and stability, which can protect against future injury. Exercise can also help reduce the pain. Physical therapists also recommend that patients apply ice or heat to the affected area.
A small percentage of patients will be required to have surgery. Doctors will usually recommend surgery if the symptoms do not improve within six weeks of treatment. Additionally, surgery will be recommended if the herniated disk is interfering with the patient's ability to stand or walk.
The doctor will usually remove the part of the disk that is protruding. However, some patients will need to get their own disk removed. If the surgeon removes the entire disk, he or she will fuse the vertebrae together with a metal hardware or place an artificial disk.
How can a herniated disk be prevented?
Because it is more likely to occur in overweight people, maintaining a healthy body weight is one of the best things that can be done to prevent it. Furthermore, people also need to make sure that they exercise regularly. Regular exercise helps support and stabilize the spine muscles.