Herniated Disc Guide: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Options

Herniated-Disc

What is Herniated Disc?

The spinal column consists of vertebras (bones) that are linked together with inter-vertebral discs. These are small disc-like structures which are made of a tougher outer layer (annulus) which envelopes a soft gel-like substance (nucleus) inside it. These inter-vertebral discs are responsible to provide cushioning and support to the two consecutive vertebras being supported by it.

A herniated disc occurs when a portion of the nucleus (gel-like soft inner substance) pushes out from the outer tougher layer (annulus) and into the spinal canal. The spinal canal is a narrow passageway that contains the vital nerve roots – starting from the brain and ending at the base of the spine – which are further connected to the rest of the smaller nerves in the whole body. When the herniated disc pushes the nucleus into the spinal canal it presses against the spinal cord resulting in pain.

Herniated disc may occur in any part of the spine however they are more commonly seen in the lower back (lumbar), and then in the neck (cervical) region.

What causes Herniated Disc?

A single but hard injury, or strain, to the spine may result in a herniated disc. The disc material also degenerates naturally with advancing age and the supportive ligaments also tend to weaken with time. As the degenerative process advances even a small injury or strain to the spine may result in a herniated disc.

Certain people are more prone to herniated disc as scientists have found evidence of this disorder being a genetically developing disease as well.

What are the signs and symptoms of Herniated Disc?

The signs of a herniated disc may vary depending on the size and location of the damaged inter-vertebral disc. In case the herniated disc does not put pressure on any nerve the patient might feel a dull ache/pain in the back from time to time, or, may not even notice any symptoms.

If the herniated disc is pressing against a nerve in the spinal canal, the patient is likely to feel pain, weakness or numbness in the area of the body being connected by the particular nerve. Also, a case of severe herniated disc may be precluded by episodes of low back pain or a long list of instances where the patient might feel instant back pain that vanishes with time.

These are the signs and symptoms commonly seen when the herniated disc is located in the lower back (lumbar spine), which is known as sciatica:

symptoms-of-herniated-disc

  • Pain/burning sensation in the buttocks
  • Pain/numbness spreading from buttocks to the legs
  • Pain also known to spread to the foot in some cases
  • Pain usually felt in one side (foot/leg)
  • Pain comes in sharp electric shock-like bouts
  • Pain worsens with standing/walking/sitting
  • Lower back pain is also common

These are the commonly seen signs and symptoms of a herniated disc occurring in the neck (cervical spine) region:

  • Dull ache in neck
  • Sharp pain between shoulder blades
  • Pain spreads from arm to hand/fingers
  • Numbness/tingling in shoulder/arm
  • Pain worsens in certain positions or with specific movements

How is Herniated Disc diagnosed?

A herniated disc is diagnosed by an experienced neurosurgeon that will first check the patient’s medical history as well as overall physical examination of the body to check for other causes of the symptoms.

These are the various diagnostic techniques used to identify a herniated disc:

  • X-Ray test – This helps to view the structure of the spinal column, including the joints and facets of the vertebrae. These also help to check for other causes of the back pain such as infections, tumors or fractures of the spine.
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan – This technique helps to create a cross-sectional image of the spinal column using advanced x-ray imaging technology. This allows viewing the shape and size of the spinal canal, its content as well as the structures around it.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan – This technique uses a combination of magnetic field and x-ray imaging to create a 3-D image of the spinal structure with the details clearly seen. This allows checking the spine for abnormal growths, enlargements or any other irregularity.
  • Myleogram – This technique uses a contrasting dye injected into the spinal region before creating an image of the region using x-ray technology. The clearer picture lets the neurologist see pressure being exerted upon the spinal nerve as well as other causes of it.

Who is an ideal candidate for a Herniated Disc Surgery?

A person is considered to be an ideal candidate for a herniated disc surgery if:

  • Leg/back pain impairs normal everyday life
  • Progressive neurological deficits (leg weakness/numbness) are seen
  • Loss of bladder/bowel control is seen
  • It becomes difficult to stand/walk
  • Other non-surgical treatment methods have been unsuccessful
  • The patient is in overall good health condition

How is Herniated Disc treated?

Herniated disc is mostly treated using non-surgical methods such as rest, lower activity level, medications (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs – NSAIDs), epidural injections, etc. the doctor may also recommend physical therapy if the herniated disc is not severe in nature and causes mild symptoms.

However, the more severe cases of herniated disc require immediate and effective surgical treatment to relieve the disabling pain and loss of activity being caused by it. The surgical treatment method is also advised when the other non-surgical treatment methods have been unsuccessful in delivering satisfactory results.

There are several types of surgical methods for treating herniated disc and the doctor will consider certain factors (such as age, overall health and underlying medical condition if any) before advising on the best-suited surgical treatment method for the particular case.

These are the various types of surgical options available to treat a herniated disc case:

treatment-options-for-herniated-disc

  • Artificial Disc Surgery – This involves replacing the herniated (damaged) inter-vertebral disc with an artificial prosthetic implant to restore normal movement and strength to the back.
  • Discectomy – This involves removing the herniated inter-vertebral disc partially/completely.
  • Laminectomy – This surgery requires removing a major portion of the bony arch (lamina) of the vertebra.
  • Laminotomy – This surgery involves making a small hole (opening) in the lamina to relieve pressure from the nerve roots.
  • Spinal Fusion – This surgical procedure requires grafting a piece of bone into the spine which fuses (joins) the two consecutive vertebras together. This prevents the spine in the region to move and hence the pain is lessened. At times, surgical metal screws, rods and plated might also be needed to promote the fusion of the two vertebras. 

Why choose Travcure for Herniated Disc surgery in India?

India is known for its world’s largest healthcare network consisting of the best and most efficient multi-specialty and super-specialty hospitals and clinics. This network covers all major Indian cities such as Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai, etc which makes it more convenient for patients coming in from abroad to get their treatment in India. Travcure, being the largest and most reliable medical tourism service provider in India, is well-connected to this vast competitive network of global-class healthcare facilities. Travcure offers every patient with the best, most effective and efficient herniated disc surgery package in the most affordable price range ever.

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