A herniated disc can cause pain in the neck, lower back, down the leg, or a combination. It can also cause tingling, numbness, or weakness in one or both legs. This is because a bulging disc or its fragments may be pressing on the nerve or spinal cord. This is known as a lumbar disc herniation, ruptured disc, or slipped disc.
A disc herniation can make it difficult for some patients to walk. They may have trouble moving their feet or toes. Patients with pain that shoots from the buttock down to the legs may have sciatica. Other common symptoms include a burning sensation and pain with specific movements like bending or twisting. If you have sciatica, weakness, numbness, or tingling, contact a disc herniation specialist.
What Causes a Herniated Disc?
Gradual aging-related wear and tear can result in a herniation known as disc degeneration. As people age, the discs can become less flexible. This leads to discs shrinking and weakening.
The following can cause a herniated disc:
- Repetitive activity that strains the back
- A traumatic injury
- Frequent driving
- Wear and tear from aging
- Lack of physical activity
Exercise or other physical activity help strengthen the stomach and back muscles. That’s why people who do little to no physical activity can be more prone to a disc herniation. Moreover, workers in physically demanding jobs are at a greater risk for a herniated disc.
How to Treat a Herniated Disc
A spine care specialist will ask questions, conduct an exam, and request testing. This allows the doctor to determine the best treatment options. It could be as simple as taking pain medication and modifying activities to minimize pain.
Because of the opioid crisis, it’s understandable that patients have concerns about pain medication. Opioids aren’t the only option.
Here are potential pain medication options for a herniated disc:
- Over-the-counter NSAIDs
- Muscle relaxers
- Oral steroids
- Cortisone injections
A disc herniation specialist may recommend specific exercises, ice and heat therapy or making an appointment with a physical therapist or chiropractor. In some cases, the doctor may refer the patient to a pain management or physical medicine specialist, as well. In physical therapy, the PT will demonstrate exercises designed to minimize pain from a herniated disc.
After trying conservative spine therapy, surgery may be an option. Fortunately, a disc herniation usually does not require surgery. It’s used as a last resort for pain that can’t be managed through other means.
What to Expect in a Doctor’s Appointment for a Herniated Disc
You’ll fill out paperwork that details your medical history. The healthcare staff reviews your medical history and symptoms. Next, is a physical exam. The back specialist may check the location of the pain, muscle strength, and reflexes.
The doctor may order the following tests:
- X-ray: Rules out other causes of back pain.
- CT scan: Crates cross-sectional images of the spine and surrounding structures.
- MRI: Produces images of the body’s internal structure with radio waves and magnetic fields. It may pinpoint the herniated disc and the affected nerves.
- Myelogram: Involves injecting dye into the spinal cord for a better view of the structures around the spine.
- Nerve tests: Measures electrical pulses in the nerve tissue to determine the problem area. The doctor may do an electromyography (EMG) or a nerve conduction study.
Need to see a back specialist? Please contact us or call 214-823-2052. You have a choice of two conveniently located offices in Addison and Dallas. We serve patients in Dallas, Frisco, Plano, Garland, Addison, and other cities in the DFW metroplex.