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Disc Herniation

Spinal discs separate each of the vertebrae in the spine and act as a cushion to help absorb some of the normal pressure on your spine. When one of these discs slips out of place it is called a herniated disc. Our spines are designed to support the body and serve as the connection point for the rest of the body. The vertebrae, ligaments, and discs that make up our spinal cord are flexible and used to absorbing some shock from general wear and tear on our bodies. But in the event of an accident where an injury to the spine occurs, it can lead to a disc herniation and cause significant pain and discomfort, bringing you to seek out herniated disc treatment.

When a disc slips out of place it can put abnormal pressure on nearby nerves, causing them to malfunction and send incorrect signals to other parts of your body. When too much pressure is placed on a nerve it is known as a pinched nerve. The most common places to experience related pain and need herniated disc treatment are in the cervical spine (your neck) and lumbar spine (your lower back). The structure of the neck is thinner and more fragile, so a disruption like a herniated disc because the neck also has such a wide range of motion. The lumbar spine is the opposite because the vertebrae are larger and stronger, though there is much less range of motion in the area.

Causes of a Herniated Disc

There are a number of ways a herniated disc can happen, and it is possible to not recognize the cause right away. In fact, many people don’t notice what caused the herniated disc but will start to experience pain and discomfort.

Disc Degeneration

General wear and tear on the body can lead to discs gradually losing their shape and strength, making them more susceptible to herniation or rupture. That is why herniated discs are more common in middle age between 30 and 55 years old. As discs age, they lose their flexibility which can make them more prone to tearing or rupturing. When discs are worn down they are more likely to slip out of place when you strain your neck or back. Twisting or bending the wrong way can lead to a herniated disc.

Car Accident Injuries

Whiplash is the most common car accident injury and can affect the vertebrae and discs in your neck, as well as muscles, tendons, and nearby nerves. When the jolt of the accident forces your head forward and then backward in a quick, unnatural movement your spine can get injured. It is possible for a disc to be forced out of place from the stress of the accident. In whiplash cases, the ruptured or damaged disc can put pressure on nearby nerves in your neck, leading to tingling sensations and even numbness through your shoulders, arms, and hands.

An injury to your lower spine during a car accident can also lead to a herniated disc. The impact of the accident can damage your lower back as you twist and turn with the movement of the accident. When a disc slips out of place in the lower back it can put pressure on the sciatic nerve, which can lead to shooting pain, tingling, and numbness down your leg and into your foot. Injury to the sciatic nerve and the pain you experience from it is known as sciatica and can be debilitating.

Slip and Fall Injuries

Weakened discs through regular wear and tear on the body can make them more susceptible to injury in the future. Middle to older aged adults are more prone to slip and fall accidents, which may leave you needing herniated disc treatment. During a fall, it is possible to land in an uncomfortable position that strains your back muscles and leads to injury. The vertebrae and discs in your spine can become displaced, leading to a herniated disc. If you have a torn disc or a previously herniated disc injury that is still healing, it is possible to reinjure the area.

Symptoms of a Herniated Disc

Each person may experience symptoms of a herniated disc differently, but there are certain experiences that are relatively common. There are a number of risk factors that may determine which symptoms you get, including a person’s age, how much of the disc has ruptured, and if a spinal injury also occurred.

Here are common symptoms of a herniated disc:

  • Arm or leg pain that may shoot down into your hand or into your foot
  • Tingling or “pins and needles” sensation in different parts of the body
  • Weakness or numbness in your muscles making it hard to lift things or cause you to stumble
  • Neck pain and pain around your spine especially around your lower back

A herniated disc in your neck can send shooting pain through your shoulder into your arm or hand. You may notice one or both arms feels weaker or that is difficult to lift or hold things without feeling like you might drop them. You might also notice that pain and tingling gets worse when you turn your head a certain way.

A herniated disc in your lower back can send shooting pain and tingling through your buttocks and into your leg or foot, leaving the area feeling weakened or even numb. If you have a herniated disc in your lower back it is important to take caution when walking or going from standing to sitting, as the pain and other symptoms may become more aggravated when you are in motion and cause you to fall.

Diagnosing a Herniated Disc

A combination of a physical exam and diagnostic imaging tests will help determine the location and severity of a herniated disc. A doctor will examine the spine, identify any misalignments, and also test your neurological responses like reflexes and sensations. A doctor will also test the functioning of your body’s various systems and assess your muscle strength and your ability to walk. Some diagnostic image tests utilized for herniated disc treatment may include X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and neurological exams to test nerve functioning.

Diagnostics

X-ray

In the event of a disc herniation, your doctor will likely perform a physical examination first. Then, various diagnostic tests such as the x-ray will be ordered to assess the potential damage to the spine.

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CT Scan

Disc herniations can be indicative of soft tissue damage as well as spinal damage. CT scans might be necessary to show an image of the soft and hard tissue anatomy.

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MRI Scan

MRI scans are also helpful in the diagnosis of a disc herniation. They utilize magnetic field gradients to produce images of the injured area. With this image, your specialist will be able to see the stress on the spine.

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Fluoroscopy

Most interventional spine procedures such as epidurals involve an injection, which needs to be placed in a specific area to ensure results. Our Snellville Chiropractors know the body well, but put safety as our top priority. This is why we use fluoroscopy during needle placement on the spine, one of the most delicate areas of the body.

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Herniated Disc Treatment

The team at AICA Orthopedics in Snellville includes orthopedic doctors, chiropractors, neurologists, and surgeons who are specialists in disc herniations. They will first diagnose the herniated disc and then develop an individualized treatment plan that addresses the root cause of your herniated disc in addition to your associated symptoms. A variety of specialists allows for a well-rounded approach to treating your herniated disc so you can experience the best chance at recovery.