What is herniated disc pain, and what are the causes?
The word “herniate” means to bulge or to stick out. Also called a ruptured disc, a slipped disc, or a bulging disc, a herniated disc refers to a problem with one of the rubbery cushions between the vertebrae that stack up to make your spine. These discs can break down over time, and their jelly-like center can push against a nerve or the spinal cord causing back pain or numbness or weakness in the arms or legs.
Disc herniation is most often the result of a gradual, aging-related wear and tear called disc degeneration. As you age, your spinal discs lose some of their water content. That makes them less flexible and more prone to tearing or rupturing with even a minor strain or twist. Since not everyone feels pain caused by herniated discs, a relatively high percentage of the population over the age of 40 may have a disc problem that would only appear on an imaging scan.
Typical causes of herniated disc pain
- Improper lifting or violent twisting may cause a sudden strain.
- Excess body weight places added stress on the discs in your lower back.
- Repetitive strenuous activities create a greater risk of back problems.
What are the symptoms, and how do they progress?
Herniated discs often produce no symptoms at all, but pain would most likely occur in your neck or lower back. Herniated disc pain is usually worse when you’re active or moving in ways that put pressure on the nerve such as coughing, sneezing, sitting, and bending. You may find yourself often changing positions to reduce pain.
Symptoms of a herniated disc in the neck
- pain near or over your shoulder blade
- pain radiating to the arm or your hands and fingers
- pain on the back and sides of your neck
Symptoms of a herniated disc in the lower back
- sciatica or pain that radiates to the buttocks, legs, and feet
- tingling or numbness in the legs or feet
- muscle weakness
What are some home remedy solutions?
You can practice some techniques for home treatment of herniated disc pain. Hot or cold packs will not correct the disc, but they can relieve pain and inflammation. Exercise and maintaining good posture while sitting, standing, and sleeping can also strengthen your back and relieve pain. You should attempt to continue as much normal activity as you can tolerate. Too much bed rest can lead to stiff joints and weak muscles. Many over-the-counter medications are available to help with pain management, but you should always consult a doctor about any potential side effects.
Treating Herniated disc pain at NWA Interventional Pain
Our pain clinic can provide several treatment options that we tailor to your needs. We can prescribe non-narcotic muscle relaxers and pain medicines to help with inflammation and stiffness. We can also explore physical therapy to improve core strength, flexibility, and endurance.
If other methods aren’t working, we can use transforaminal or interlaminar epidural steroid injections to deposit medication near the pressure points around irritated and swollen nerve roots. Because repeated steroid injections can weaken bones and connective tissue, it’s important to have the procedure performed at a pain treatment center by a Fellowship Trained Interventional Pain Doctor.
What sort of problems can occur after pain treatment?
Steroid injections do not work for everyone, so you should maintain an open dialogue with the pain control clinic about the progress of your treatment. If your symptoms become more severe, you develop a fever of over 101, or you notice redness or drainage at the injection site, you should call your pain doctor or go to the nearest ER.