Herniated Disk

April 12, 2017 - Galey Hanna

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A herniated disk, also known as a slipped disk can be very painful.  There are 26 bones in the spine called Vertebra, between the bones is a rubbery type material with a soft center called “disks” that absorb shock.  When a disk herniates, some of the soft material slips out of the disk through a crack.  This can happen mostly in the back area but sometimes in the neck as well.  The soft material that escapes can also release a substance that can irritate nerves causing pain as well as press on the surrounding area and nerves causing serious pain or debility also.  Some people can have a herniated disk and never know it as no nerves are effected therefore they have no symptoms, others can, in addition to pain, experience numbness and weakness in the affected area.  If the affected area is in the lower back, it can create pain, numbness, tingling in the hips and glutes from sciatica because the pain can travel down the path of that nerve.  My husband experiences sciatica almost on a daily basis ranging from mild to intense.  He can even experience it without the lower back pain as it just seems to travel differently on different days.  There seems to be no rhyme or reason to it.  If the herniated disk is in the neck, the pain will usually radiate to the arms and shoulders.  Quick movements may exacerbate the issue.  Things like obesity, occupation, and genetics can all be factors that can increase the chances of being a victim of a slipped disk.  Keeping healthy with proper diet, exercise, and a BMI in normal range can help keep the spine healthy and reduce back pain caused by herniation.

Just looking at all the stories while researching for this blog from all the people suffering from herniated disks  is heartbreaking.  Some who cant walk anymore from the pain, some who have little money or insurance and are forced to go on opiates to relieve back pain while others suffer off and on for years with no real, long-term, treatment offered.  The terminology used to explain herniated disks can be confusing to some patients.  “Bulging disk” “slipped disk” “herneated disk” “slipped disk” I have heard them all, and until now, I thought they meant different things.  I have read that Physicians use these terms interchangeably which can confuse patients and leave them frustrated as to their true diagnosis.  Also, the level of pain is not a determining factor for diagnosis.  A muscle strain can produce as much pain if not more than a herniated disk so, a less serious issue can cause more pain which again can be confusing to the patient.  It can also be difficult for the patient to distinguish the source of their pain as muscles, tendons, and discs can overlap which causes the brain, in some instances, not to be able tell a difference.  As with anything else, patients should not try to diagnose themselves as serious injury can occur if certain injuries are left untreated.  My husband had seriously injured his back playing high school football.  After that, he always lived with some back pain until years later it became unbearable.  Flat on his back, friends took him to a hospital where they preformed emergency surgery.  The disk had “ruptured” and all the spinal fluid was wrapped around his spine which almost caused paralysis.

Treatment plans should be source of pain specific.  Trial and error plans can be the norm.  Most conservative treatments are utilized first with physical therapy, manipulation, and Electric Medicine.  Electric Medicine can be used to treat pain while manipulation and physical therapy is utilized.  Physical therapy can also help teach patients proper body mechanics so that future injury is eliminated.  At WAR Clinic we use exercise/therapy to create space between the discs so that oxygen and nutrients can return to the area reducing pain and creating range of motion so that pain is greatly reduced.  This is a more effective and affordable treatment that combined with Electric Medicine has a greater positive outcome.  Herniated disks can “heal” on their own or, symptoms can be reduced over time.  Because the material in the disc contains water, the water can be absorbed by the body over time therefore shrinking the fragment which produces less pressure on the nerve.  The body can also produce an autoimmune response which can absorb the inflammation which causes a relief of back pain.  As with anything, surgery is always, hopefully, the last effort to heal and reduce symptoms; any and all natural, non-invasive treatments are preferred.

Galey Hanna