The spine is comprised of bones called vertebrae. Flexible discs connect the vertebrae and act as a cushion. When the discs are healthy, they assume the roles of shock absorbers, which help the spine naturally bend and move.
If one or more of these discs is suddenly damaged, it may tear. If some of the nucleus of the disc ruptures, this is called a herniated disc, also referred to as a slipped or ruptured disc. This reduces the size and shock absorption properties of the discs. This can cause vertebrae to grind together and can lead to increased pressure on nerve roots. Depending on each unique situation, a herniated disc can result in mild to severe pain, including possible nerve damage.
Herniated discs can be found in many locations in the spine, but most cases occur in the lower back, known as the lumbar spine. There are several common causes for herniated discs: lifting, straining, natural wear and tear from the aging process, trauma, and previous spine injuries.
Living with a Herniated Disc
Spinal disc herniation can happen suddenly and unexpectedly, however, it can also begin slowly and escalate over a period of time. Time is a component in the healing process; it could take months to fully recover. The time and pain involved can make living with a herniated disc unpleasant and challenging, which makes the selection of a trusted provider even more essential.
Seton Brain & Spine Institute (SBSI) offers herniated disc treatment in Austin and the Central Texas region. After determining the severity of the herniated disc and potential accompanying complications, Seton Brain and Spine specialists will formulate a treatment and recovery plan individualized for each patient. The SBSI team simplifies the recovery process by utilizing comprehensive, patient-centric approaches. At Seton Brain and Spine Institute, patients experience the full benefit of collaborative care and the positive results it produces.
Herniated Disc Diagnosis and Treatment
Herniated disc diagnosis is a relatively straightforward process. The herniated disc can be detected and confirmed with diagnostic imaging tools such as the MRI or CT scans. Diagnostic tests are strongly recommended if nonsurgical treatment fails or if there is an emergency such as cauda equine syndrome. Although a patient may display specific symptoms that indicate a herniated disc, physicians need to rule out the possibility it could be another condition.
An accurate diagnosis is essential. Depending on the individual, a herniated disc can take weeks or months to heal. During this time, if not properly treated, a herniated disc can worsen and cause nerve damage. Time is the main cure, but treatments such as medication and physical therapy can play key roles in recovery. Medication can reduce swelling and pain and ease pressure, and physical therapy can strengthen muscles to further protect the spine, help circumvent further disc herniation, as well as train patient to treat themselves. Non-surgical procedures are always considered first, with the exception of emergency situations that necessitate surgery. Surgical treatment may also be considered if the spine does not respond to non-surgical treatments. Microdisectomy is the surgical procedure for herniated discs. This one-day procedure is a minimally invasive technique that removes part of the disc that pinches the nerve.
Fortunately, there are steps patients can take to reduce their chances of experiencing a herniated disc complication. Several simple actions that help prevent herniated discs include: maintaining good posture, lifting with the legs instead of the back, participating in regular exercise and utilizing proper form, maintaining a healthy weight, and not smoking.
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