What is a Herniated Disc?
A herniated disc is simply a protrusion, or sticking out of the disc. Think of a disc as a balloon being held in place between your hands. if you push your hands together unevenly the balloon will bulge out on the opposite side. This is what happens to the disc between the vertebrae.
A Bulging Disc is the same thing as a herniated disc - just a different name.
Herniated discs are probably one of the most common diagnosis's for back pain out there and is often used when a doctor can't find an explanation for the person's pain. similar to a doctor explaining away various aches and pains as arthritis.
The problem is, many people who are diagnosed with a herniated disc don't have pain because of it. and, for years, research has shown that in many cases, people live with herniated discs yet never have any back pain or symptoms. The point is, if you've been diagnosed with a herniated or bulging disc, it may not be what's really causing your back pain!
Even if you've had x-rays and MRI's done that show a herniated disc, chances are still very good that it's not the problem. so read on to learn more and find out what's causing your back pain.
So what causes a disk to herniate?
Well, many people want you to believe it's old age, excess weight, stress, poor genetics, or how you lift a heavy object.
while these are all potential factors, the biggest factor or cause is uneven pressure placed on the disc. Yes, you read that right. uneven pressure on discs is the biggest cause of herniated discs.
Remember we talked earlier about the uneven pressure? Well, months and years of this uneven pressure causes discs to breakdown.
Do you have any idea what causes this uneven pressure?
It's something so simple that it amazes me how many people, including the experts (orthopedic specialists, chiropractors, physical therapists, etc) fail to recognize it.
So what is it? Muscle Imbalances.
You see, muscle imbalances pull your bones and joints, especially the pelvis and spine, out of place and this places excess and uneven wear and tear on the body.
This is where Chiropractors come in.
The whole concept of chiropractic care is to manually move the bones and joints back into the proper position.
Makes sense right? WRONG! Why? Because the same muscles that pulled those bones and joints out of place to begin with, will do so again, usually within days.
The ONLY way to address muscle imbalances is to first identify them, then work on correcting them with the right combination of corrective exercises and stretches. and any treatment that fails to include this formula, is doomed to fail!
So when does a Herniated Disc actually cause pain?
Typically, a herniated disc will cause pain when it is putting pressure on a nerve or nerves and this pain is usually felt down the backside of the leg. However, occasionally individuals experience pain in the disc itself or the area around it.
How do you know then what's causing your back pain?
Whether your pain is in the disc or shooting down your leg, I am willing to bet that it has something to do with muscle imbalances.
In my opinion, it always makes sense to start at the beginning. so the first thing to do is identify what muscles imbalances you have and then begin work on correcting them.
DON'T try things like ultrasound, electrical stimulation, cortisone shots and then feel disappointed that they didn't work. how can they? Remember, they don't address the root cause of the problem!
I am not saying that these types of treatments don't have a place, it's just that they will not give you the long-term relief you are looking for. For example, ultrasound may be helpful in conjunction with a corrective exercise and stretching program but it's not likely to do much on it's own.
Signs, Causes, and Symptoms of a Herniated or Slipped Disk
Lumbar Vertebrae L4 - L5 and L5 - S1 are the most likely to herniate (also called bulging disk, compressed disk, herniated intervertebral disk, herniated nucleus pulposus, prolapsed disk, ruptured disk, slipped disk). The effects of this can cause pain and numbness that can radiate through the leg and extend down to the feet (sciatica).
1. Pain that injects from your back or neck to your hand or foot.
Shooting or cutting pain is what pain from a herniation feels like. If this pain goes all the way to your hand or foot then this possibly a disc herniation. Pain that ends before crossing your knee or elbow is most likely to be referred pain.
2. Numbness or titillating in your hands or legs.
When a nerve is squeezed off by a disc herniation you might sense a numb or pins-and-needles sensation in your legs, hands or feet. This sensation will be in a particular region such as the little finger and ring finger of one hand or the outside or your lower leg. Different nerve roots are responsible for sensation to particular regions of the body. You may observe that an area feels like it is "numb", such as when you sleep on your arm or sit on one leg too long. The phenomenon is the same. When you pinch off a nerve with pressure, the corresponding body part will tingling.
The first two symptoms address what occurs once receptive nerves are squeezed. When motor nerves from the same nerve root are squeezed you may observe helplessness of specific muscle groups. Primary examples of this helplessness are decreases in hand grip strength or an inability to stand on your toes. Although helplessness is not the most common sign of a disc herniation it is one of the more serious ones.
4. Shifting your position makes a difference.
When you are examined for back pain and your doctor wants to ascertain whether it is plausible that you have a herniation, he will try to detect positions that stretch particular nerves. When a nerve root is pinched off at the spine by a herniation and the nerve gets stretched, it will generally increase any symptoms you have (Pain, numbness, tingling, weakness, etc.) On the one hand, perhaps the only way you have found to alleviate your hand pain is to hold your hand over your head. This is a primary and often definitive sign that you have a herniated neck disc. Holding your hand above your head removes all of the tautness off of the nerves running into your hand.
5. Extremity pain may be worse than back or neck pain.
When you have a disc herniation it is conceivable that you don't even have any back pain. That is partly true. Your leg or hand pain from a herniation possibly so acute that you do not observe the comparatively smaller amount of back or neck pain. Discs are pain sensitive but nerve roots are far more sensitive and normally if you have a herniation of a disc the hand or leg pain will be twice as bad.
6. The symptoms are on one side only.
When a disc bulges or herniates it will typically bulge to either the left or right. Whenever you have pains down both legs or to both hands then other causes need to be looked at such as stenosis, tumor, or additional disease.
7. Painfulness when you straining.
You may discover that your symptoms (pain, tingling, numbness, etc.) increase if you strain when lefting a heavy load. This increases the pressure in your spinal cord and may further compress a nerve root; increased pinching leads to increased symptoms. This is a really good indicator that your trouble is a disc herniation.
Now that you understand some symptoms of disc herniation you should also know that there are lot more causes for a disc herniation. They can be induced by some traumatic force but more often they come on when you least anticipate it. Low back disc herniations can come from repeated gyration stress.
if you are loading heavy boxes into the back of a truck and instead of squaring up yourself in front of a box, lifting it up and then walking to the truck, you are twisting to grab the box and then twisting to place it in the truck, you are putting your discs under an extraordinary amount of tension.
One of the most stressful loads you can place on your spine is to sit slouching forward for an extended periods. Because this reason, truck drivers are particularly prone to low back disc herniations. It's also getting more and more common with people who spend lengthy periods of time in front of a computer.
Also see our article Spinal Decompression Back Pain Relief from Disc Herniation
The real key is to not only treat the symptoms, but address the cause of the problem also. You can learn more about how to identify and correct your muscles imbalances in our video, Lose the Back Pain.
Jesse is a certified personal fitness trainer and post-rehab specialist and he has helped hundreds of individuals to eliminate their back pain. Visit his site now and be sure to sign up for his free email course on eliminating back pain.
In it, we take you thru a series of self-assessments in which you'll identify which specific muscle imbalances you have. We then show you step-by-step what to do to correct them in our Corrective Action Plans. all you have to do is follow the instructions and in weeks, maybe days, your back will be feeling great again. Order your copy online at http://www.losethebackpain.com/ or call 1-888-343-FITT (3488).