Herniated disks are a common condition that occurs when a portion of the intervertebral disk bulges out of its normal position and compresses a nerve root. The resulting symptoms can range from mild to severe and may require medical attention. Suarez Physical Therapy is a comprehensive physical therapy clinic in Las Vegas, Nevada dedicated to providing effective and comprehensive treatment for herniated disks and other conditions. Our physical therapists provide individualized treatment plans that are tailored to meet the needs of each patient.
The Definition of Herniated Disks
A herniated disk, also known as a slipped disk, is a common spine injury that occurs when the outer layer of an intervertebral disc becomes damaged and the inner layer of the disc is forced out, resulting in a protrusion or bulge causing pain, numbness, and other symptoms in the affected area.
The intervertebral discs are located between each vertebra in the spine and provide cushioning between them. They are made up of a soft, jelly-like material in the center surrounded by a tough outer layer. When the outer layer becomes damaged or weakened, the inner layer can protrude through the outer wall and press on the nerves in the area.
Herniated disks are commonly found in the lower back, but they can occur in any part of the spine. This condition is common in people between the ages of 30 and 50 due to the increased wear and tear on the spine that occurs with age. Other risk factors include a previous injury, smoking, or heavy lifting.
Injuries Likely to Cause Disk Herniation
There are different causes of disk herniation, they include:
Any type of direct trauma to the spine, or a sharp twisting or bending of the spine, can cause a disk to herniate. This type of trauma is commonly experienced in car accidents, sports injuries, or falls.
Repetitive motions, such as those in certain jobs, sports, and hobbies, can place a significant amount of strain and pressure on the spine. Over time, this can cause the disks to weaken, leading to herniation.
As we age, the spinal disks can become prone to damage and herniation. This is due to a decrease in the production of natural lubricants, as well as a general weakening of the disk material.
Poor posture can put extra strain on the spine and lead to disk herniation. This mainly occurs if the poor posture is sustained over a long period.
Carrying around extra body weight can also strain the spine, leading to disk herniation.
How Does a Disk Herniation Feel?
A disk herniation can be a painful experience. The most commonly reported symptom of disk herniation is a sharp and stabbing pain that can be felt in the lower back, buttocks, and legs. This pain is usually worse when bending, lifting, or twisting. The pain associated with disk herniation can also cause numbness and tingling in the affected area. This is because the herniated disk is pressing on the nerves in the spine, leading to these sensations.
In more serious cases, a person may experience weakness in their limbs due to the pressure on the nerves. A disk herniation can also cause psychological effects. People who experience the pain associated with a disk herniation may find themselves feeling overwhelmed or anxious which can also lead to depression.
The pain associated with disk herniation can range from mild to severe. In mild cases, the pain can be managed with rest and over-the-counter pain medications. However, in more serious cases, surgery may be necessary to correct the herniated disk.
Signs and Symptoms of Disk Herniation
Disk herniation is a common cause of lower back pain and sciatica, and can be experienced in the neck, mid-back, and lower back. The most common signs and symptoms of a disk herniation include:
- Pain — Pain is the most common symptom of disk herniation. It can range from a dull ache to a sharp, burning sensation. Pain is usually felt on one side of the body and may radiate down the leg or arm, depending on the location of the herniation.
- Numbness or Tingling — Disk herniation causes numbness or tingling in the affected area. This is due to nerve compression caused by the herniated disk.
- Muscle Weakness — Muscle weakness mainly occurs due to the nerve being compressed, resulting in the muscles not receiving the signals from the brain to move properly.
- Difficulty Walking — Difficulty walking can be caused by a disk herniation, as the nerve may be compressed and unable to adequately control movement.
- Loss of Bladder or Bowel Control — In severe cases, a disk herniation can affect the nerves that control the bladder or bowel, resulting in incontinence.
Disk herniation is a serious medical condition and can lead to permanent nerve damage if left untreated. If you are experiencing any of these signs and symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention.
What Are the Risk Factors For Developing Herniated Discs?
The risk factors for developing herniated discs include age, genetics, lifestyle, physical activity, and other medical conditions.
As we age, our discs become more brittle, making them more prone to degeneration and herniation. Age-related changes in the spine, such as decreased flexibility and increased wear and tear, can also contribute to the development of a herniated disc. When combined with other risk factors, age can increase the risk of developing a herniated disc.
Genetics can play a role in the development of a herniated disc. Those with a family history of disc herniation are more likely to develop a herniated disc than those without a family history. This is because genetics can affect factors such as flexibility, joint stability, and disc durability, which can increase the risk of developing a herniated disc.
Lifestyle factors can increase the risk of developing a herniated disc. Poor posture, prolonged sitting, and smoking can all contribute to the development of a herniated disc. Additionally, being overweight can increase the risk of a herniated disc, as excess weight places added stress on the spine.
Physical activity, especially high-impact activities such as running, can lead to the development of a herniated disc. Repetitive motions, such as those performed in sports, can also increase the risk of a herniated disc, as can lifting heavy objects or having frequent falls or accidents.
Other Medical Conditions
Certain medical conditions can increase the risk of developing a herniated disc. Conditions such as osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, and degenerative disc disease can all increase the risk of developing a herniated disc.
Additionally, some medical treatments, such as steroid injections, can increase the risk of a herniated disc. If you are at risk of developing a herniated disc, it is important to speak with your doctor to determine the best course of treatment.
How is Disk Herniation Diagnosed?
Disk herniation is a condition in which a gel-filled disc that lies between the vertebrae of the spine becomes damaged or ruptures. When a disc herniates, it can press on a nerve root or the spinal cord, causing pain and other symptoms. Diagnosing a disc herniation is important for determining the best treatment for the condition.
The first step in diagnosing a disc herniation is taking the patient’s medical history and carrying out a physical examination. During the physical exam, the doctor will check for areas of tenderness, look for signs of muscle spasms, and check for any areas of numbness or tingling.
They may also order imaging tests, such as X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs, to get a more detailed view of the spine. The imaging tests can show if there is any narrowing of the spinal canal, as well as any bulging or herniation of the discs. They can also show if any discs have slipped out of place or if there is any compression of the nerve roots. If the imaging tests suggest that there is a herniated disc, the doctor may order an electromyography (EMG) test. This test measures the electrical activity of the muscles and is used to diagnose nerve compression and muscle weakness.
Another test that may be used to diagnose a disc herniation is a discogram. During this test, a dye is injected into the discs of the spine. This dye allows the doctor to see if any of the discs are damaged and if there is any compression of the nerve roots.
The doctor may also order a nerve conduction study. This test measures the speed and strength of the electrical signals sent between two nerve endings. It is used to determine if there is any nerve damage or compression due to a herniated disc.
Disk herniation can cause a lot of pain and discomfort, but with proper diagnosis and treatment, the condition can be managed. If you are experiencing any symptoms of disc herniation, it is important to consult your doctor to determine the best course of action.
How to Treat Herniated Discs
There are several treatments available for herniated discs that can help reduce discomfort and allow you to return to your normal activities. The most common treatment for a herniated disc is conservative treatment, which includes rest, physical therapy, medications, and lifestyle changes. Rest is an important part of recovery, as it allows the disc to heal. Physical therapy can help to strengthen the muscles in your back, which can help support the herniated disc and reduce pain. Medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and muscle relaxants can help reduce pain and inflammation. Lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding activities that may aggravate the herniated disc can also help. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to treat a herniated disc.
Surgery is mainly considered when other treatments are not successful or if the herniated disc is causing severe pain or affecting nerve function. The most common type of surgery for a herniated disc is a discectomy, in which a portion of the herniated disc is removed. Other surgical procedures such as spinal fusion and laminectomy may also be necessary to relieve pressure on the nerve root.
In addition to the treatments mentioned above, there are also several alternative treatments available for herniated discs. These treatments include acupuncture, chiropractic care, massage therapy, and spinal decompression. Acupuncture can help to reduce pain and inflammation, while chiropractic care can help to realign the spine and reduce pressure on the herniated disc. Massage therapy can help to reduce muscle tension and improve circulation, while spinal decompression can help to reduce pressure on the herniated disc.
How Can a Physical Therapist Help a Patient With a Herniated Disc?
A physical therapist can help manage the symptoms of a herniated disc, reduce pain and improve the patient’s quality of life. To do this, physical therapists use a variety of treatments that include:
Manual therapy is a type of physical therapy that uses hands-on techniques to reduce pain and improve mobility. Manual therapy can include joint mobilization, soft tissue massage, and other techniques to reduce muscle tension and improve the range of motion.
Physical therapists can create an individualized exercise program to help strengthen the muscles and improve flexibility. This can include stretching, strengthening, and core stability exercises.
Physical therapists may also use modalities such as heat, cold, ultrasound, and electrical stimulation to reduce pain and improve the range of motion.
Education is a key component of physical therapy. Physical therapists can provide education about posture, body mechanics, and how to perform activities of daily living safely.
Can Disc Herniation Be Prevented?
Yes. There are steps that you can take to try and prevent a herniated disc. First, it’s important to practice good posture and ergonomics. Poor posture can put extra strain on your spine and increase the likelihood of a herniated disc. You should also make sure to sit or stand in a comfortable and supportive manner, with your head, shoulders, and hips all in alignment.
Engaging in regular physical activity can also help to prevent a herniated disc. Exercise can help to strengthen the muscles around the spine, which can help to reduce the risk of a herniated disc. This can be anything from low-impact activities like walking or swimming, to more rigorous activities like weightlifting.
Another way to reduce the risk of a herniated disc is to maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can increase the strain on the spine, which can lead to a herniated disc. Eating a balanced diet and engaging in regular physical activity can help to keep your weight in check.
Finally, it’s important to know your limitations and to take steps to protect your spine. If you’re lifting something heavy, make sure to lift with your legs instead of your back. Avoid activities that involve sudden, jerky motions, such as contact sports or certain types of exercise.
Maintaining Recovery Following Physical Therapy
Physical therapy is an important part of the healing process for those who suffer from a herniated disc. After completing physical therapy, it is important to maintain the progress made during treatment to ensure a successful recovery. Here are some tips for maintaining recovery after physical therapy for a herniated disc.
Regular physical activity is one of the best ways to maintain recovery after physical therapy for a herniated disc. Mainly because physical activity helps to improve strength, flexibility, and balance, which are all important in avoiding a reoccurrence of the injury. Start slowly and build up your activity level as you become more comfortable with the movements.
Practice Proper Posture
Proper posture is also essential when avoiding a herniated disc recurrence. Learn to maintain a neutral spine while sitting, standing, and moving. It is important to practice good posture throughout the day and to be mindful of how you position your body. Proper Lifting Techniques
Use proper lifting techniques when lifting objects to prevent a herniated disc recurrence. This means using your legs and keeping your back straight while lifting. Also, avoid twisting or bending while lifting.
Avoid Repetitive Motions
Repetitive motions, such as bending and lifting, can cause a herniated disc to reoccur. Be mindful of movements that can cause strain on your back and avoid these motions whenever possible.
Proper Sleep Habits
Maintaining proper sleep habits is important for a successful recovery. This means sleeping on your back or side with a neutral spine and avoiding sleeping on your stomach. Avoid sleeping in positions that can cause strain on your back.
Eating a healthy diet is essential for maintaining recovery after physical therapy for a herniated disc. Eating a balanced diet that includes adequate amounts of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats can help to strengthen the muscles in your back and prevent reoccurrence.
Stress can cause strain on the body, which can lead to a herniated disc recurrence. Practice stress management techniques, such as deep breathing, yoga, or meditation, to reduce stress and maintain recovery.
Find a Physical Therapist Near Me
When recovering from a herniated disc, physical therapy is essential. Our experienced physical therapists at Suarez Physical Therapy in Las Vegas, Nevada can evaluate your condition and develop a customized treatment plan to help you recover. Call us today at 702-368-6778.