Spine Pain that Shoots Down Your Arm or Leg? Could be a Herniated Disc
by Courtney Gittins
The bones (vertebrae) that form the spine (backbone) are cushioned by small, round, flat discs. When these discs are damaged from an injury, normal wear and tear, or disease, they may bulge abnormally or break open.
A herniated disc occurs when small tears form in the wall of an injured disc. The injury often compresses a nerve root, causing pain.
A herniated disc occurs when small tears form in the wall of an injured disc. Damaged pieces of the nucleus (which can harden and break apart with age) push through the tears and out the disc wall. The herniated disc often compresses a nerve root, causing pain.
You should see a doctor if your neck or back pain travels to your arms or legs, or if the pain is accompanied by any sort of numbness or tingling. You should seek emergency medical attention if you have any sort of bladder or bowel dysfunction. You should also contact a doctor if you have loss of feeling in the inner thighs, back of legs, or area around rectum.
Test and Diagnosis:
- Usually all that’s needed is a physical exam and medical history
- X-Rays: Don’t detect this type of injury but can rule out tumor, broken bone, or alignment issues
- Myelogram: Test can show pressure on spinal cord or nerves due to bulging discs
- MRI: Test that uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to make pictures of organs and structures inside the body. A herniation may be seem on MRI.
Treatment & Drugs:
- Most commonly just avoid painful positions, follow exercise plan, take OTC pain medication (Advil, Aleve)
- Nerve pain medication
- Muscle Relaxers
- Spinal Injections: help alleviate pain in the back and neck
Therapy may include:
- Physical therapy
- Heat or Ice
- Electrical stimulation
- Very small percentage of patients need surgery
- Remove protruding portion of the disc (rarely does full disc have to be removed)
- Discectomy: removal of partial or full disc
Do you think you may have a herniated disc? NEED A REFERRAL? OrthoNeuro has 6 physicians who treat this injury.