Herniated discs are a common cause of back and neck pain, affecting about 2% of the population each year. As with many spine-related problems, early treatment is the key to feeling better and preventing complications.
As a top-ranked interventional pain management specialist in Franklin, Wisconsin, Cyril Philip, MD, offers state-of-the-art treatment for herniated discs, along with patient education aimed at helping you improve your spine health.
Here’s what he wants you to know about the warning signs and symptoms of herniated discs.
How herniated discs happen
Located between each pair of vertebrae, spongy discs help protect your spine from jolts and impacts, and they keep your spine flexible.
Normally, the edge of each disc is located within the borders of the vertebrae. But sometimes, a disc can slip out of place, extending beyond the edge of the bone and getting pinched or compressed. This is a herniated disc, and it’s a really common cause of back pain.
When a disc slips out of place, it presses on nerves as they exit your spine, causing symptoms near your spine and anywhere along that nerve’s pathway.
Sometimes, the disc’s interior liquid oozes out and irritates nerves, as well. Over time, the area becomes inflamed, and swelling increases irritation and symptoms.
Some of the most common causes and risk factors of herniated discs include:
- Age-related wear and tear on your discs
- Degenerative disc disease
- Obesity or being overweight
- Poor posture
- Lifting a heavy object
- Repetitive lifting or twisting
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Falls or other injuries
Some mild herniated discs may resolve on their own with some TLC, but they often need medical treatment to avoid more serious complications, like nerve damage.
Herniated discs: signs and symptoms
Herniated discs can happen in any part of your spine, but they’re more common in the neck (cervical spine) and lower back (lumbar spine), the two parts of your spine that are most flexible.
To some extent, the symptoms you experience can vary depending on where the herniated disc is located.
Lumbar disc herniation
A herniated disc in your lumbar spine can cause symptoms in your lower back as well as your legs and feet, depending on which nerve is affected. Some common symptoms include:
- Aching in your lower back, buttocks, hips, and legs
- Sharp, electricity-like pains into your legs
- Numbness or tingling in your lower back, buttocks, or legs
- Muscle weakness or loss of coordination
Severe lumbar herniation can cause urinary or bowel incontinence or make it difficult to walk.
Cervical disc herniation
When a herniated disc happens in your upper spine, it can cause symptoms like:
- Neck pain or aching
- Pain in your shoulders or upper back
- Burning or tingling sensations in your neck, upper back, shoulders, or arms
- Numbness in your arms or hands
- Problems coordinating hand movements
- Increased pain when you turn or bend your neck
Without proper treatment, disc herniation can cause permanent nerve damage, along with permanent loss of sensation or function in your arms or legs.
Relieving herniated disc pain
Limited activity, hot and cold compresses, and gentle stretches sometimes relieve mild herniated discs. But if herniated disc pain lasts more than a few days or if it comes back, it’s time to see Dr. Philip.
Typically, we can treat chronic or severe herniated disc symptoms with minimally invasive options. Dr. Philip offers both epidural steroid injections and radiofrequency ablation.
Epidural steroid injections
These injections contain an anesthetic to numb painful symptoms, along with anti-inflammatory medicine to reduce swelling and irritation.
Radiofrequency ablation uses focused radiofrequency energy to target the affected nerve. The energy calms the nerve and interferes with pain signaling, providing you with up to three weeks of relief to give the area time to heal.
Without treatment, nerve impingement from a herniated disc can cause debilitating symptoms that may be irreversible. To find out if a herniated disc could be causing your back pain, book an appointment with Dr. Philip online or over the phone today.