Twenty-four vertebrae make up our spine, among which are the discs. When a disc ruptures, pressure between the vertebrae causes the fluid leakage within the disc. When pain shows up, you will feel it mainly in the lower back. Keep reading to find out how herniated and ruptured discs are diagnosed and treated.
Discs are rigid fiber-like ring structures, which contain viscous, gelatinous fluid. The role of the disc is to act as a protective element between the vertebrae, soften shocks, and provide flexibility.
Of all types of back pain, ruptured discs are the best known – and most feared because of the pain they cause.
What causes a ruptured disc?
A disc becomes ruptured when it is squeezed between the vertebrae and fluid leaks within the disc, sometimes extending the damage to the nerve and leading to additional pain and symptoms. In many cases, it is difficult to know exactly what caused the disc to rupture, though lifting heavy loads, injuries, and the normal aging processes can influence.
What does a ruptured disc feel like?
Not every ruptured disc will cause pain; sometimes, the disc ruptures but does not press on a particular nerve. However, when there is pain, you will feel it mainly in the lower back. If the disc presses on the sciatic nerve, you will experience sharp pain in the lower extremities and perhaps a tingling sensation in the legs.
Sometimes, when a disc ruptures, the pain will increase with certain movements and can worsen when you with cough, sneeze, urinate, and more.
How common are ruptured discs?
Although most people (about 80%) will experience at least one episode of back pain during their lifetime, disc ruptures only occur in less than seven percent of the population.
People between the ages of 35 to 55 are more likely to experience a ruptured disc, and men are at higher risk than women.
How are ruptured discs diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, check for muscle weakness, and ask you to perform specific movements and examine the sensations in the legs. Because ruptured discs often impair your ability to lift your legs up, doctors usually perform “straight leg test”.
How long does disc pain last?
Despite its ominous name, pain from a ruptured disc may go away within two months or less. This is caused by the natural recovery process of the disc, as well as the contraction and release of pressure on the nerve.
During this time, symptoms should be treated to reduce pain and avoid disruption of your daily activities.
How are ruptured discs treated? Is there any advanced instrumentation that can help?
It is crucial to continue with your routine, along with avoiding movements or activities that make the pain worse. However, in the initial acute pain phase (several days), it is recommended to rest.
If you are referred to physical therapy, you will learn to perform various pain relief exercises. If necessary, ruptured discs can also be treated with analgesics.
One in ten of the disc ruptures will have to undergo surgery. This is when conservative therapies are of no use, when the pain significantly impairs a person’s quality of life, or when it affects other organs in the body. You should also know that surgical intervention can also be minimally invasive, through endoscopy or disc extraction or microsurgery.
The treatment of ruptured discs also brings advanced pain relief technologies to the forefront. This is an opportunity to experiment with home appliances such as "Olynvolt™ Pocket", a lightweight, simple, and user-friendly device.
How to avoid ruptured discs?
When it comes to disc ruptures, prevention is the name of the game. Therefore, it is recommended to adopt healthier lifestyle habits like eating a healthy diet, losing weight if you need to, regular exercise, using ergonomic furniture at work, etc.