Back or neck
pain that worsens with movement, coughing, sneezing, or straining.
that radiates from the spine down the arm or leg.
tingling, or numbness in the buttocks, a leg (sciatica), or an
on one side.
pain not relieved by over-the-counter pain relievers.
When To Call Your Doctor
doctor if you have herniated disk symptoms.
an ambulance immediately if someone suffers a serious back or
injury. Keep the patient still until help arrives.
What Is It?
A herniated disk, also known as a slipped disk,
is a protrusion of the central portion of one of the flat, circular
pads found in the joints between the bones of the spine (vertebrae).
A slipped disk can cause symptoms by pressing either on a nerve
leaving the spinal cord or on the spinal cord itself.
Each disk has a soft and gelatinous inner portion
surrounded by a tough outer ring that allows it to act as a shock
absorber between the bones of the spine. Weakness or trauma may
allow the inner portion to push through the outer ring (in some
cases compressing one of the spinal nerves and causing pain and
numbness in the neck or along an arm or leg). A herniated disk
may then rupture. In a rupture, the soft gel squeezes through
the outer shell and may press on the nerves. The intervertebral
disks in the neck and especially the lumbar spine are the most
likely to rupture.
What Causes It?
Neck or back
injury is the most common cause.
obesity, or a sedentary lifestyle may put uneven stress on the
spine and cause a slipped disk.
are more prevalent among men under age 45, after which the growth
of extra fibrous tissue around the disks affords greater stability.
again among the elderly, owing to disk degeneration.
Bend and lift
objects from the knees, not the waist. Do not strain to lift
things that are too heavy.
Follow a program
of moderate, regular exercise to strengthen back and abdominal
if you are overweight.
and physical examination.
CT (computed tomography)
scans or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).
How To Treat It
activity by lying flat for a few days may help relieve symptoms.
Avoid activities such as lifting or pushing that aggravate symptoms.
Ice or heat
packs should be used for pain. Muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatories
may be prescribed.
In some cases,
various types of surgery may be done to remove the disk. Rarely,
in severe cases, the adjoining vertebrae may be fused.
a supportive collar and an extra-firm mattress may be advised.
A back brace may be used to provide support during activity.
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