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Spinal Disc Management Options in 2023

Spinal disc management refers to the treatment of spinal disc problems such as herniated discs. The initial treatment for herniated discs is conservative, unless a patient has severe neurological compromise. Physical therapy is the key for most patients. Surgery is usually the last resort as it does not always result in predictable results.

Spinal disc injuries can be caused by a variety of factors. Disk herniation is most often the result of a gradual, aging-related wear and tear called disk degeneration. As people age, the discs become less flexible and more prone to tearing or rupturing with even a minor strain or twist. Other factors that can increase the risk of a herniated disk include:

  • Excess body weight

  • People with physically demanding jobs

  • Some people inherit a predisposition to developing a herniated disk

  • Smoking lessens the oxygen supply to disks, causing them to break down more quickly

  • Frequent driving

  • Being sedentary

How Do I Know If I Need Spinal Disc Management?

The symptoms of a herniated disc depend on where the disk is situated and whether the disk is pressing on a nerve. Most herniated discs occur in the lower back, but they can also occur in the neck.

Signs and symptoms include:

  • Arm or leg pain. If your herniated disk is in your lower back, besides pain in your lower back, you’ll typically feel pain in your buttocks, thigh and calf. You might have pain in part of the foot as well.

    For a herniated disk in your neck, you’ll typically feel the most pain in your shoulder and arm. This pain might shoot into your arm or leg when you cough, sneeze or move into certain positions. Pain is often described as sharp or burning.

  • Numbness or tingling. People who have a herniated disk often have radiating numbness or tingling in the body part served by the affected nerves.

  • Weakness. Muscles served by the affected nerves tend to weaken. This can cause you to stumble, or affect your ability to lift or hold items

Health Diagnosis

A herniated disk is often diagnosed by a physician after a patient complains of back, neck or extremity pain. The physician will gather history and symptoms and conduct a physical examination. If a slipped disc is suspected, the physician will usually order imaging tests to confirm the diagnosis. Imaging tests include:

  • X-rays. Plain X-rays don’t detect herniated disks, but they can rule out other causes of back pain, such as an infection, tumor, spinal alignment issues or a broken bone.

  • CT scan. A CT scanner takes a series of X-rays from different directions and then combines them to create cross-sectional images of the spinal column and the structures around it.

  • MRI. Radio waves and a strong magnetic field are used to create images of the body’s internal structures. This test can be used to confirm the location of the herniated disk and to see which nerves are affected.

  • Myelogram. A dye is injected into the spinal fluid before a CT scan is taken. This test can show pressure on the spinal cord or nerves due to multiple herniated disks or other conditions.

Different Types of Treatment

Treatment for a herniated disk depends on the severity of your symptoms and the degree of nerve root compression. Most people with a herniated disk improve with conservative treatment. The most common approach includes the following:

  • Medication- Nonprescription pain medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve) can relieve mild to moderate pain. Neuropathic drugs such as gabapentin (Gralise, Horizant, Neurontin), pregabalin (Lyrica), duloxetine (Cymbalta, Drizalma Sprinkle), or venlafaxine (Effexor XR) can affect nerve impulses to decrease the pain.

  • Surgery- Spinal surgery is usually reserved for times when other treatments have failed and symptoms are severe enough to cause significant disability or progressive weakness.

  • Physical therapy- Minimizes pain through exercises. Stretching improves flexibility and physical function. Physical therapy can include different types of approach which is why it’s important to consult a medical professional when seeking proper treatment.

Types of Physical Therapy for Spinal Disc Management

  • Manual therapy is a hands-on treatment that involves manipulation of the spine and other joints. It is used to reduce pain and improve mobility. Soft tissue manipulation is done to relieve any unnecessary compression due to spasming of the nearby paraspinal musculature.

  • Heat or cold therapy- is a treatment that involves applying heat or cold to the affected area. Cold packs can help decrease pain associated with a damaged disc, while heat packs can reduce the inflammation that causes pain.

  • TENS- stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. It is a therapy that uses low voltage electrical current to provide pain relief.

  • Traction therapy- is a treatment that involves the use of weights or a mechanical device to gently stretch the spine. The goal is to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerves and allow for more space between the vertebrae.

  • Ultrasound therapy is a treatment that uses high-frequency sound waves to promote healing and reduce inflammation. It can be used to detect herniated discs by looking for bulges or protrusions in the disc

Consult A Medical Professional

It is important to consult a doctor before undergoing spinal disc management if you have a herniated disc because the doctor can determine the severity of your condition and recommend the best course of treatment.

A doctor can also rule out other causes of back pain and determine if imaging tests are necessary. A doctor can also recommend the best course of treatment for your herniated disc. Treatment options include medication, physiotherapy and surgery.

Physical therapy can minimize pain through exercises and stretching to improve flexibility and physical function. Surgery is usually reserved for times when other treatments have failed and symptoms are severe enough to cause significant disability or progressive weakness.

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