What is a herniated disk?
Disks are small circular cushions between the vertebrae. Normally, disks act like shock absorbers to cushion your vertebrae from each other as you move. A herniated disk is a disk that has bulged out from its proper place. It may press on nearby nerves which can cause severe pain.
How does it occur?
When a disk is damaged, the softer center of the disk pushes out through a weak point in the outer layer. A disk can be damaged by:
A fall or accident
Repeated strain on the back
A sudden strenuous activity such as lifting a heavy weight or twisting violently
A herniated disk can also happen without a known cause but likely due to repeated activity using poor body mechanics or poor posture
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of a disk herniation can begin suddenly or gradually.
You may have aching, tingling, numbness, burning or a sharp pain in the arms or legs.
You may have centralized neck or back pain
Weakness in the arms or legs may be present
Changes in bowel or bladder habits
How is it diagnosed?
Your health care provider will review your symptoms
An evaluation of the spine will be performed testing movement, reflexes, strength, nerve irritability, and sensation
The doctor may order x-rays, MRI, EMG (nerve conduction test), or myelography
How is it treated?
In most cases, people do not need surgery.
Treatment may include:
Pain relievers or muscle relaxers
In severe cases surgery may be required