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What are herniated discs?
Herniated discs are an issue with one or more of the rubber-like cushions that separate the bones in your spine. The discs act as a suspension for the body, soaking up the shock to protect the spine. They also keep space between the vertebra for the spinal nerves to leave the spinal cord.
The discs themselves look a little bit like doughnuts. They have a soft core and a harder exterior. When a disc herniates, the softer core pushes its way through the harder outer casing. Sometimes people do not show any obvious symptoms from herniated discs. However, the disc can push on nerves nearby, and this does result in pain. This pain can sometimes be referred to as “sciatica”. We will get to more of the symptoms of herniated discs in just a moment. Most herniated discs do not require surgery to be corrected. In fact, as you’ll find out below, most of the treatments here at The Mayfair Clinic can sort out the issue in just a few treatment sessions.
What are the symptoms of herniated discs?
Most herniated discs occur in the lumbar region of your spine, but they can also be found in the neck. As we said, not all people show any obvious signs or symptoms from herniated discs, however, those that do experience symptoms including:
Numbness or tingling – Herniated discs can cause numbness in your arms or legs. This is due to the herniated discs pressing on nerves in the spine, or the spinal nerves that send messages to other parts of your body.
Weakness – The muscles that are served by the nerves that your herniated discs have affected may be weakened. If these muscles are in your legs, you may notice that you stumble or have difficulty walking. If they are in your arms, you can find it difficult to hold or lift things, such as a kettle.
Arm or leg pain – If your herniated discs are in your lower back, you may feel pain in your bum, calf and thigh. The pain can also go as far as your foot. If the disc that’s herniated is in your neck, the pain is more typically found in the arm and shoulder. However, in both cases, if you sneeze, cough or move your spine in certain ways, the pain can shoot into your legs or arms.
If you have back or neck pain that travels down your legs or if you have pain in your arms and legs that is accompanied by tingling, weakness or numbness, these are sure signs of a herniated disc pressing on a nerve or your spinal cord.
What are the causes of herniated discs?
Herniated discs are most often caused by a gradual wear and tear. This is called disc degeneration or “degenerative disc disease”. As we mature, the discs lose their water content. This loss of water makes them more vulnerable, so they are more prone to rupturing and tearing even with a very minor twist or strain.
A lot of people with herniated discs, cannot pinpoint the exact reason the disc ruptured. In some case, lifting with your back instead of your legs can be the cause. So can twisting while carrying something heavy. In rare cases, a traumatic event like a car crash or a fall can cause a herniated disc, but often the cause is unknown. The good news is that, unlike other back conditions, we don’t need to know the exact cause to treat herniated discs.
Risk factors that increase the likelihood of herniating a disc in your back include:
Weight – Excess body weight will cause extra stress on the discs in the lumbar region of your back, over time, this may lead to herniated discs
Occupation – Anyone with a physically demanding job has a higher risk factor than most of herniating a disc in their spine. Pulling, pushing, lifting, twisting and bending all day long is likely to wear down the discs far quicker than usual.
How to prevent herniated discs
To help prevent herniated discs, try the following:
Maintain good posture – Good posture can help keep stress and pressure off of your spine. Try to keep your back straight, particularly when sitting for longer periods. We all know the health and safety warning “lift with your legs, not your back” and getting your legs doing most of the work can keep you from getting herniated discs, so it’s a good practice to get into.
Good posture is also incredibly important for recovery of herniated discs.
Exercise – Strengthening your core muscles can help to support and stabilise your spine.
Maintain a healthy weight – as we said, excess weight puts more pressure on the spine. So, maintaining a good weight is crucial if you want to prevent herniated discs.
Treatments for herniated discs
Here at The Mayfair clinic, we have treatments that can relieve the symptoms from herniated discs and get your life back to normal. Like all of our treatment programmes, our herniated disc treatments start with a spinal consultation.
The spinal consultation is a physical examination of your back to see what is happening in your body. We’ll also ask you some questions about your medical history, whether you have suffered from herniated discs before, for example. From there, we will study your imaging tests if you have them. If you don’t, we will sometimes send you for some. We work with the best imaging companies in London to ensure we get a proper look at whatever is causing you your pain.
Once we have collected all of this data, we can start to tailor a treatment plan to you. This treatment plan is completely tailored to suit your condition and the lifestyle you lead so that you can make as quicker recovery as possible. The treatment plan may include the following:
Spinal Decompression – This treatment involves gently stretching the spine in a controlled way to release the pressure build up that has led to the herniated discs. As the pressure releases, the pain is reduced, and any other symptoms from your herniated discs will dissipate.
Laser Treatment – Laser treatment works in conjunction with spinal decompression to promote tissue healing safely. It also helps to reduce the inflammation surrounding the discs. Laser therapy increases circulation to an area of the body so the body will heal itself naturally just faster and more completely than usual. As the herniated discs in your back start to heal, the function of them is restored and the pain from them is alleviated. Often pain reduces faster than healing takes place so remember you do need time to heal even if you feel better faster than you expected.
Most people who receive laser therapy and spinal decompression treatments have improved symptoms during or just after the first treatment. However, we will give you the necessary help and advice to help you long after your treatment plan to ensure herniated discs in the rear view forever.
To find out more about these treatments, please explore our website further. If you would like to book an appointment at The Mayfair Clinic and begin your journey to recovery, please contact us using the buttons below.