Low back pain is a very common problem. Most people experience an episode of back pain every year. Most of the time the back pain is due to a strained muscle or sprained ligament. But when there is numbness of the leg associated with the back pain it could be due to a herniated disc that is putting pressure on a nerve.
What is a herniated disc?
Discs are small, circular cushions between the bones of the spine (vertebrae). Normally, discs act as shock to cushion your vertebrae from each other as you move. A herniated disc is a disc that has bulged out from its proper place in your back. A herniated disc may press on nearby nerves and cause severe pain.
How does it occur?
When a disc is damaged, the soft rubbery center of the disc squeezes out through a weak point in the hard-outer layer. A disc may be damaged by an accident or by repetitive wear and tear on your back. Many times, people cannot recall a specific inciting event.
What do you experience with a herniated disc?
• Back pain
• Numbness, tingling, pain, or weakness in one or both legs (this is called sciatica)
• Changes in bladder and bowel habits.
Symptoms of a herniated disc in your neck may also develop gradually or suddenly. You may wake up and feel a sudden aching. Or you may have a twisted neck that you cannot straighten without extreme pain. You may also have numbness, tingling, or weakness in one or both arms.
How is it diagnosed?
The first step to diagnosis is a thorough history and physical examination of the affected areas. You may need to have one or more of the following tests:
• X-rays of your spine.
• MRI or CT scan of the affected area.
• Electromyography (tests of electrical activity in your muscles and nerves)
How is it treated?
The good news is that over 95% of patients do well with non- surgical treatment. With proper care, most of the herniated discs resolve without surgery.
The first step in treatment is to relieve the pain. The goal of treatment is to centralize the pain, to get it out of the legs. Many treatments are available:
• Spinal decompression, segmental traction and spinal manipulation.
• Physical therapy including manual therapy, heat, cold, and electric treatments.
Special exercises including core stabilization, spinal extension and flexion exercises relieve most pain when done properly
• Medications including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, such as Motrin, muscle relaxers, oral steroids, and pain medications
• Trigger point and Epidural steroid injections.
As your pain lessens, exercises to strengthen your back muscles and joints are essential to prevent further episodes of pain. This therapy involves learning how to control the movement of your spine during recreation and work activities. At RALI we have been treating back pain successfully for over 15 years. We use a combination of therapy, OMT, traction and activity modification. We are available to evaluate and treat your back pain.