What exactly is a herniated disk?
A herniated disk is a medical condition usually associated with having a slipped disc. It is important to note that this condition comes in many names and can be confusing, but most of them are misleading. It has been called as a slipped disc, a pinched nerve, and even a ruptured disc, but understanding what causes a herniated disk will most probably shed the most light into what this condition is about.
What is a herniated disk?
The spinal chord is a stack of disks and vertebrae (spinal bone). The disks, soft and donut shaped like substances, are the ones that separate the spinal bones. These disks also allow for movement between the vertebrae. A herniated disk happens when a disk is torn, herniated (a condition in which part of an organ is displaced and protrudes through the wall of the cavity containing it) or degenerated, causing it to protrude or extend outwards. The spinal disk when pushed out can hit one of the nerves. This condition is what causes the pain or discomfort, and in some cases numbness or a tingling feeling in the lower body, neck or arms, depending on where the herniated disk occurred. You may also feel pain when you sneeze, cough or when you are bending forward or backward. Some symptoms could be muscle weakness, or having intense pain while others can be asymptomatic (shows no symptoms).
The lower back is the most commonly affected area of herniated disks. This is probably due to the actions that involve the use of the lower back since it’s used more often than the upper back and neck area. But there are cases when the patient would feel numbness or pain in the shoulder area, down to the fingers, when the neck or cervical area has experienced a herniated disk.
Diagnosing a herniated disk involved securing the medical history of the patient. It is important to know any historical information that might rule out or confirm a herniated disk. This will be complemented with a physical exam and some diagnostic tests. A CT scan will most probably be requested, or an MRI, depending on what the physician deems necessary.
When conducting the physical exam you can inform your doctor if you feel pain in certain parts of you body, or if you’ve experienced nausea, weakness, or fever.
What causes a herniated disk?
Disk herniation has several possible causes, but the most commonly cited would be aging. As people age, the spinal disks degenerate, leaving them more prone to tearing.
Physical stress on the spine and back can also cause a herniated disk, especially when undergoing strenuous physical activities, such as sports or heavy lifting.
How can herniated disks be prevented?
You can prevent herniated disks by keeping a good posture. Seeing a chiropractor will help you best adjust your posture, not just when being still but also even how you go about your daily activities. Repetitive and continuous movement that’s bad for your back can create stress on your disks and cause them to tear or rupture.