Here’s the thing. Back pain stinks. Back pain can happen to anyone regardless of age or activity level. New or worsening back pain diminishes overall mobility, limits participation in daily activities, and alters quality of life.
Over time, injury, repetitive movement, or the normal aging process can damage or rupture the discs, leading to pain and spinal dysfunction. Disc problems, which are the leading cause of back pain, may manifest as bulges, herniations, tears, or disc degeneration. Each affects the spine in different ways and may result in varying symptoms.
What Does a Damaged Spinal Disc Feel Like?
What Caused My Spinal Disc Problem?
Spinal disc problems are common and have multiple possible explanations. Some causes are obvious, such as a sports injury, while others have no clear origin.
● Disc degeneration occurs over time as discs dehydrate and lose their elasticity. This reduces their ability to properly support and cushion the spine. Degenerated discs have an increased chance of rupture.
● Trauma, such as slips, trips, falls, or accidents can result in sudden and exaggerated motion of the spine and may cause disc problems. The abrupt movement may displace the disc or cause abnormal pressure, which can also lead to rupture.
● Excess weight carried around the waist or poor posture from maintaining unnatural positions for extended periods may cause stress and pressure on the spine. Excessive pressure may weaken the discs making them vulnerable to damage.
● Motion, such as sudden movements, repetitive bending, or lifting with improper technique may damage discs over time or cause sudden ruptures.
What Kind of Disc Problem Do I Have?
Different disc problems may present varying or similar symptoms, making it important to consult a physician to determine the exact nature of your disc compromise. The extent of protrusion within the disc, its impact on surrounding nerves, and the effect on spinal stability play a role in determining the type and severity of disc damage. Common disc conditions include:
● Bulging Disc: A disc bulge occurs when the elastic core of a disc partially escapes into the outer layer causing a bulge. This may result in compression on nearby spinal nerves.
● Herniated Disc: A herniation occurs when the elastic core of a disc escapes through the outer layer causing a protrusion outside of the disc. The outer layer may have been weakened through injury or aging. Herniation may result in pressure on the nearby spinal canals that nerves travel through from the spinal column or compression on the nerves themselves.
● Disc Tear: A tear occurs when nerve endings emerge outside of the protective disc walls causing a herniation. Tears often result from sports-related injuries or the natural aging process.
● Disc Degeneration: Degeneration occurs as spinal discs lose their elasticity and ability to cushion the joints. This can be a result of normal aging or a genetic predisposition to experience weakened discs.
● Spinal Stenosis: Foramen are the openings in vertebrae that protect nerves as they travel away from the spinal cord. Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the foramen over time. The spinal nerves can be pinched or compressed due to the loss of space. This often results in radiating pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in the extremities.
How Are Spinal Disc Problems Diagnosed?
Every injury is unique. The path to a diagnosis generally starts with a physical examination which can determine if symptoms result from spinal disc problems. The physician will examine your spine, conduct a series of orthopedic tests, evaluate your range of motion, and assess your motor abilities.
Experiencing neurological deficits such as pain during certain movements, altered reflexes, and diminished strength can indicate disc problems. Advanced imaging studies and nerve tests may also be used to pinpoint the nature and extent of the problem as well as its impact on associated nerves.
How Do You Fix Spinal Disc Problems?
Disc problems and the pain they cause limit participation in daily activity, restrict mobility, and can worsen without intervention.
Proper diagnosis is key to addressing the variety of disc problems that patients may experience. Assessing symptoms, level of function, and the extent of disc compromise is necessary to select the optimal treatment plan. Treatment options for disc problems include:
● Conservative Treatment. These treatments could include physical therapy, chiropractic care, exercise techniques, rehabilitation, ice therapy, heat therapy, and medications.
● Pain Management Treatments. These are typically minimally-invasive or non-surgical techniques, including injections, that will help alleviate acute pain and discomfort.
● Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery. Minimally invasive spine surgery is an advanced surgical technique that uses smaller incisions than traditional open back surgery and generally leads to faster healing.
Rather than accepting back pain as an inevitable part of aging or coping with its adverse effect on your quality of life, contact the spine specialists at Oasis Orthopedic and Spine to find the right solution. If you think you are suffering from a spinal disc injury or condition, get a head start on your diagnosis below.
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