Severe trauma to the back can cause a number of different injuries that are painful and debilitating. A disc herniation injury can result from trauma or from lifting something heavy. A herniated disk is when any of the rubbery cushions, known as discs or disks, slips, ruptures or pushes out. Anyone experiencing severe back pain should immediately see a doctor, because this type of injury could require medical treatment and/or rehabilitative care.
Disk Herniation Symptoms
Some victims of a slipped, ruptured or herniated disc experience very few symptoms. Others, however, require surgery because of the amount of pain they are experiencing. A herniated disc can damage nearby nerves resulting in numbness, severe pain and weakness in an arm or leg.
Difference Between Herniated and Bulging
The disks in your back act as cushions between the vertebrae in your spine. They have a tough cartilage outer layer that surrounds a softer cartilage center. A bulging disk is one that extends outside the space it normally occupies. The part of the disk that bulges in a bulging disk injury is typically the outer layer. This is part of the aging process, but it can occur at any age.
A herniated disk is when a crack in the tough outer layer of cartilage allows some of the inner cartilage to escape. A protrusion of the softer inner cartilage often affects one distinct area of the disk. This type of injury is less common than a bulging disk, but when it does occur, it can be very painful.
Causes of Disc Herniation
The development of most disk herniation injuries is gradual. The wear and tear on our backs as we age coupled with disk degeneration can result in disc ruptures and slips. Our spinal disks even become less flexible as we age as they lose some of their water content. Herniated disc injuries, however, are not always just a part of aging.
For some, a disc herniation injury can be sudden and painful. Workers who are required to lift heavy objects, for example, may suffer disc herniation by using their back muscles instead of their leg and thigh muscles. Twisting and lifting is particularly hazardous. In other cases, victims of slip-and-fall accidents or violent car accidents can suffer a herniated disc injury as well.
Those particularly at risk of suffering from disc herniation include middle-age adults who are beginning to experienced age-related degeneration, individuals with excessive body fat and workers with physically demanding jobs. Repetitive lifting, pushing, bending, pulling and twisting can result in a herniated disk.
When to Seek Medical Attention
In severe cases, a herniated disk can compress a part of the spinal cord resulting in permanent weakness or paralysis. In such cases, emergency surgery will be needed. Anyone experiencing back pain should look into their medical options, but those who are suffering from the following symptoms should see a doctor immediately:
- Bladder issues: Individuals who have a bulging disc pressing against the group of long nerve roots at the bottom of their spinal cord may become incontinent or have difficulties urinating.
- Numbness: The progressive loss of feeling in the inner thighs, back of legs and rectum could be a sign of a serious injury.
- Worsening physical issues: When weakness, numbness and pain continue to increase, medical attention will be required.
A brief review of your medical history and a physical exam may be all that is needed to determine that you are suffering from a herniated disc. If, however, your doctor wants to make sure that you are not suffering from additional conditions, he or she may order an X-ray, a CT-scan, an MRI or a Myelogram. These are all different imaging tests that will help your doctor determine the extent of your injuries and what treatments will be needed.
Getting the Support You Need
If you believe that you suffered a serious back injury, regardless of the circumstances, it is crucial that you get help right away. It may take weeks or even several months for individuals to completely recover from disc herniation injuries. Those who have been injured may not be able to work or even perform normal household tasks such as mopping, cooking or picking up a child. Injured victims suffer not only emotionally and physically, but also financially. Anyone who has suffered a disc herniation injury would be well advised to obtain the knowledge and resources they need to ensure that they receive advice and assistance during these challenging times.