The vertebrae in your spine are responsible for protecting the spinal cord from external force. They have disc-shaped cartilage between each of them; which prolongs the time they will stay in good condition.
These disks are made of two types of cartilage: soft cartilage, which spans the inner part of the disk; and tough cartilage, which accounts for the circumference of the disks. However, with age they begin to wear out. One such illness that arises from this is known as herniated discs.
“What are treatment options for a herniated disc with nerve pain?”, you might ask. Don’t look any further, because we will be discussing that in today’s article. Read on to find out more.
Symptoms of Herniated Discs
Herniated discs usually happen due to the cracking of the outer layer of the disc, made of tough cartilage. Subsequently, inner soft cartilage gets released from those cracks.
Although in some cases patients are not even aware of the fact that they have a herniated disc, most of the time this problem comes with several symptoms, such as –
1. Pain in the Lower Back
The degree of the pain that you feel varies with the position and type of herniated disc. If the herniated disc is formed in such a way that it is not pressing down on any nerves, then you might feel a really mild level of pain. In some cases, you might not feel any pain at all.
On the other hand, if a nerve root has been compressed, then you are more likely to experience a higher degree of lower back pain. You might even be subject to frequent occurrences of lower back pain.
2. A Numb or Tingling Sensation in the Legs
If the herniated disc is located around your lumbar spine (which is placed in your lower back), it may apply pressure on the sciatic nerve. This may cause a tingling sensation, numbing pain, or even a burning feeling that spreads from the rear all the way down to the legs, sometimes even going as far as the feet.
In most cases, only one side or leg will be affected by this. The pain that you might feel is often described as something close to an electric-shock by other patients. In other words, it is a sharp pain that may worsen when you try to walk, stand or even sit in a certain position.
Moreover, any attempts of trying to straighten your affected leg will only cause the pain to worsen, sometimes to the point where the ache in the leg exceeds the ache in the lower back. This will happen if you are suffering from acute sciatica.
3. An Ache in the Neck and Arm Area
The same thing might happen in your cervical spine which is located in the neck. If a nerve has been pressed down in the neck area, the pain may spread to the shoulders, and even to the arms down to the tip of the fingers.
This ache may be a severe or dull. It may also be accompanied by a tingling feeling or numbness in the arm or shoulder. Moreover, trying to change the orientation of how the arm is kept may increase the pain even more.
Now that we are clear about the symptoms of a herniated disc, let us move on to the various treatments that are available.
1. Taking Medication
Over-the-counter medications are one the most common ways to relieve someone with a herniated disc from the pain. Common examples of medicines that minimize pain and inflammation include naproxen and ibuprofen.
Before you go and purchase these medicines, consult your doctor first. See what they prescribe, since over-dosage of any medicine is detrimental to the health. It might even backfire on the whole process.
In case the aforementioned medications do not work, your doctor might even give you some narcotics, like oxycodone-acetaminophen or codeine. More medicines include muscle relaxants and nerve pain medicines, to soothe the muscles and irritated nerve endings.
We repeat, do not self-prescribe any medication. Always talk to a doctor before you start taking any type of medication and see if it suits you. If not, pay another visit to the doctor, and get a suitable substitute.
2. Taking Rest
Another easy way to get rid of herniated discs is by taking proper rest. A few days’ rest from your daily routine will do wonders in healing your back. You will be left feeling refreshed in no time.
Your doctor is most probably going to tell you to stay in bed for a few days. That is okay, but try to walk every once in a while, just to keep your muscles and joints moving.
However, do not partake in any strenuous activities, such as running, working out. or even lifting things up. These will definitely put a strain on your back. While you are resting, it is advisable to make good use of ice/heat packs, whichever suits you best.
All you need to do is simply put the ice or heat pack above the affected area. Keep changing the pack every few hours so that the contents stay cold or hot enough all the time.
3. Getting Therapy
When you’re diagnosed with herniated discs, your doctor is most likely to suggest a physical therapist. They will be put in charge of ensuring that the same problem does not arise again in the future. An example of a physical therapy program would be –
Stretching is a great way to relax your muscles and make them more unsolidified, so that they function better. It also helps to let go of any knots of tension that may have formed in your muscle without your awareness.
Since incorrect posture is a major factor behind the development of herniated discs, you might want to look up a few stretches that promote correct posture. This is especially important if your work requires you to stay in one position all day.
4. Getting an Epidural Injection
An epidural is basically a process that inserts a steroid medicine into the area around your spinal nerve. The presence of the steroid medicine helps bringing down the soreness, while also getting rid of the discomfort. This helps moving around more easy.
Before you get an injection, you will have to do an X-ray scan or a CT-scan, so that your doctor can correctly identify where the epidural needs to be injected. Depending on the degree of pain, you might even need multiple injections. Learn more here.
Doctors usually keep this option as the last resort and only turn to it when all the other abovementioned methods seem to have failed. Various types of surgeries are available for herniated discs. Do not worry, you will not have to go through all of them. Some of them are –
The shielding cover over your spinal cord is called the lamina. Sometimes, your surgeon might suggest that you get this removed. It can help lighten sciatica and leg pain by removing the pressure on certain nerves.
Other times, the lamina might have to be removed as part of another surgery called discectomy, which we will talk about in a bit. Removal of the lamina helps the doctor reach the main cause of the problem- the herniated disc. Learn more about lumber laminotomy here.
Discectomy entails the removal of the affected disk in order to free the nerves that were compressed by it. There are generally two types of discectomy. You might have to undergo either one of them.
1. Open discectomy
In open discectomy, the surgeon will cut open your back or neck, through which they will perform an operation and remove the affected disc.
2. Micro discectomy
In this form of discectomy, your surgeon will make a tiny cut in your back. Then, they will insert a tube with a camera fitted on it to locate and get rid of the disc.
3. Spinal fusion
Spinal fusion usually accompanies laminotomy or discectomy. Here, the vertebrae on the two sides of the removed disc are attached together. This gives the patient greater stability and mobility.
Mattress for Herniated Disc
People suffering from back problems, especially with herniated discs, will surely agree that sleep is a luxury to them. The constant back ache along with the added discomfort of not being able to sleep in your preferred position make it extremely difficult to sleep.
One way to reduce the pain is by using the best mattress for herniated disc, made from memory foam or latex. They tend to take the shape of your body, hence assuaging excess pressure.
We hope you now know about what are treatment options for a herniated disc with nerve pain. Hopefully, you will find it easier to make up your mind about whether you should go to the doctor.