Disc herniation is a common condition that affects many people at some point in their lives. In this article, we will explain what disc herniation is, its causes, symptoms, and treatment options.
What is it?
First, it’s important to understand the anatomy of the spine. The spine is made up of individual bones called vertebrae, which are stacked on top of one another to form a column. In between each vertebrae are small cushions called intervertebral discs, which act as shock absorbers and help to maintain the spacing between the vertebrae.
A herniated disc, also known as a slipped or rupture disc, occurs when the soft, gel-like center of a disc bulges or ruptures through the tough outer layer. When a disc herniates, it can put pressure on nearby nerves, causing pain and discomfort.
What causes disc herniation?
Disc herniation can be caused by a variety of factors, including age-related wear and tear, repetitive stress on the spine, and sudden trauma to the spine. In some cases, disc herniation may be due to a genetic predisposition or a pre-existing condition that weakens the spinal discs. Example of these would include heavy lifting without proper form or bracing as well as repetitive lifting while twisting in work environments.
What are the symptoms of disc herniation?
The symptoms of disc herniation can vary depending on the location of the herniated disc. In some cases, disc herniation may cause no symptoms at all. This is great news for people who get hurt and perceive disc herniations to be debilitating when in reality it may be a short-term painful state. However, when symptoms do occur, they can include:
Pain or discomfort in the neck or back along with radiating pain into arms or legs.
Tingling, numbness, or weakness in the affected area
Loss of coordination or balance
Muscle spasms or stiffness
Difficulty standing, sitting, or walking
How is disc herniation treated?
Treatment for disc herniation typically involves a combination of conservative measures, such as physical therapy, medication, and rest, as well as more invasive interventions such as surgery.
Physical therapy can be an effective treatment option for disc herniation, helping to reduce pain, improve range of motion, and prevent further injury. The physical therapist(s) at Hybrid Physical Therapy, would perform a thorough evaluation to determine the cause and location of the pain to provide recommended exercises for improving flexibility, strength, and posture, as well as advance manual therapy techniques to reduce pain and inflammation. At Hybrid Physical Therapy, we care about your goals and want to provide the best treatment possible to optimize your performance.
In some cases, surgery may be necessary to repair or remove the herniated disc. However, surgery is typically only recommended after conservative treatments have been tried and failed to provide relief. Sometimes it may take at least 2 months before any symptom improvements are seen.
Should I be worried?
There have been several studies that have shown that disc herniations can heal on their own without surgical intervention. One of the most well-known studies on this topic is the SPORT (Spine Patient Outcomes Research Trial) study, which was conducted in the United States and published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2007.
The SPORT study followed 501 patients with herniated discs in the lower back who were randomly assigned to either surgery or non-surgical treatment. The non-surgical treatment group included physical therapy, medications, and other non-invasive treatments.
After two years, the researchers found that there was no significant difference in outcomes between the surgical and non-surgical groups. Both groups experienced similar levels of pain relief and improvement in physical function. The study also found that over time, many of the herniated discs healed on their own without any intervention.
How can Hybrid Physical Therapy help with your recovery?
We know that neck or back pain can be debilitating enough to affect your quality of life and we want to help you reach your goals as safely as possible and to be able to avoid surgery. We will educate you along the way to help with expectations, strength and mobility deficits, and returning to your optimal fitness level.
Let Hybrid Physical Therapy be the ones to guide you to the road to success and optimize your performance.