Herniated discs are among the most common causes of lower back pain. Although your herniated disc may heal on its own, severely slipped discs can lead to persistent pain, loss of mobility, and other symptoms. If you have concerns about a herniated disc, a specialist can assess the damage and suggest solutions.
At Progressive Spine & Sports Medicine in Ramsey, New Jersey, our expert physicians can diagnose herniated discs, assess their severity, and let you know if they are likely to heal on their own or if you need intervention.
Understanding slipped discs
Your spine consists of many vertebrae, all stacked together and cushioned by cartilage. These discs absorb shock and prevent friction, but they are also easily damaged. You can “throw your back out” lifting something heavy or simply stand up from your seat one day and feel something slide out of place.
Aging causes cartilage to harden, which makes your discs prone to prolapse. The soft, gelatinous inside of the disc “slips” past the hard outer ring, causing the disc to bulge. Not only does this cause inflammation in the spine, but the resulting nerve compression can lead to extreme back pain that may not respond to over-the-counter (OTC) medications or other conservative treatments.
Herniated discs are most common in the lumbar spine, or the lower back, and it is estimated that 80% of people will experience a slipped disc in their lifetime. However, the good news is that not all slipped discs are created equal, and you may not need medical intervention.
Treating a herniated disc
Treatment for a herniated disc depends on your age and the severity of the slip. Bedrest, hot/cold therapy, and OTC medications like anti-inflammatories are recommended immediately. In the following days, try to perform gentle stretches and exercises to keep your spine from “locking up,” but avoid any bending or lifting.
If your nerves are being severely compressed, you might experience numbness, tingling, or nerve pain on one or both sides of your body. Muscle weakness is also not uncommon, especially in the legs. If you continue to experience persistent pain and weakness after a week of rest and flexibility exercises, it is time to consult a specialist.
Though many herniated discs heal on their own, a severely damaged disc or multiple slipped discs over the years can mean you’ll eventually end up needing care from a spine specialist. From steroid injections to careful manipulation of the spine, there are many minimally invasive options.
At Progressive Spine and Sports Medicine, our team works with you to relieve your pain and get you back on your feet. Contact us by calling 201-201-0443 or requesting an appointment online.