The lumbar spine consists of 5 discs ranging from L1 to L5, where L5 is the lowest and L1 is the highest part of your lower back. The thoracic spine consists of discs ranging from T1 to T12 where T1 is the highest part of your middle to upper back. Most people acquire a herniated lumbar disc in the L4 L5 with impingment on the S1 region of the back, Anatomy of the Spine. It is also common for people to suffer from multiple herniated discs. The term herniated lumbar disk can be compared to a bulging disc, pinched nerve, and slipped disk. A herniated disc is worsen stage of the three. This issue can cause a range of pain, depending on the specific injury and the severity of the herniated disk. If you are dealing with pain and numbness due to disc herniation, it is important to understand your treatment options before deciding to undergo herniated disc surgery. The information on this website will provide you with herniated disc treatment options your doctor may recommend and information regarding herniated disc relief exercises and stretches.
Symptoms of a Herniated Disk
There are a few key symptoms that come from a herniated lumbar disk injury. Herniated disc symptoms may include pain and numbness in the lower back, butt, legs, and feet. People with a bulging disc may feel some minor discomfort and minimal back pain. Those with a herniated disc may feel extreme constant pain and numbness that shoots down into the lower part of the body.
A bulging disc is a situation where the core of the disc is putting pressure on the outer wall of a disk and is bulging out of the spinal canal slightly. A herniated disc is a situation where the core of the disc has herniated and has pushed it’s way through the outer wall of the disk and is now protruding out of the spinal canal. Some people may not feel the symptoms of disk herniation in either case due to the positioning of the disc and the amount of pressure being put on a nerve.
Herniated Disc Treatment Options
Pain medication will be one of the first things offered to you. It is important to use this medication EXACTLY as the doctor has prescribed it to you, which will most likely be on an as needed basis. Pain medication can become addictive and should be used with extreme caution. If you are a responsible person and can manage your pain medication, then this can help improve your quality of life when combined with physical therapy and other forms of herniated disc treatment.
Physical Therapy’s main goal is to strengthen your core muscles and help relax the muscle around your herniated disc problem. A typical physical therapy session will start off with stretching and core muscle exercises. The core muscle exercises will help strengthen the muscles that surround your spine. Next, they will use the Tens Machine and a heating pad. The Tens Machine will send eletrical impulses into the area of pain to help relax the muscles. The strength of the impulses are set to your tolerance level. Then, they will use the ultrasound machine. The ultrasound will create heat by using sound waves and this will help relieve pain, decrease inflammation, and reduce muscle spasms. Finally, they will rub some pain relieving cream and provide a short massage on the area of pain. Physical therapy is an excellent treatment option and defnitely makes a difference if done consistently.
Chiropractic Therapy’s main goal is to manipulate the spine so that the disc releases just enough pressure off the nerve so that pain and numbness will alleviate. Most doctors will not recommend continuous stretching and cracking of the back. You will typically go to a chiropractor for one month at a rate of twice per week. If you don’t feel any relief at this point, then this would not be the treatment to pursue.
Epidural injections are used to help reduce the inflammation of the herniated disc. The shot is not a pain killer. The shot contains a steroid, an anti-inflammatory drug, which will create separation of the disc and the nerve so that the pain and numbess can start to alleviate. The epidural shots work on some people and can be a one time procedure if the pinched nerve is caught early. If the bulging disc becomes herniated, then the shot may or may not work. If it does work, the results may wear off over time. Doctors generally give up to 3 shots every 6 to 8 months as needed.
Herniated Disc Surgery
If you are dealing with an excruciating amount of pain from your herniated lumbar disc, you may need to consider herniated disc surgery. Herniated disk surgery is a procedure where the surgeon removes part of the disk that is pinching the nerve. The recovery time for those going through this disc herniation surgery is dependent on the person and how smooth the disk surgery went. If the herniated disk is really severe, it can take the surgeon a few hours to complete. The doctor will assess your recovery before they give you the green light for physical therapy and regular activities. Read more about Herniated Disc Surgery.