What is a Herniated Disc?So, what is a herniated disc exactly? Please read on ....
A herniated disc is when the disc material that lies like a cushion between each of your spinal vertebrae is pushed out of its normal position.
I like to describe a disc like a jam-filled "doughnut" - it has a relatively crunchy outer shell and a jammy soft centre. This is a healthy young disc. When a disc in your back is herniated the jam in the centre oozes out of its correct position.
It commonly oozes backwards called a posterior disc herniation/protrusion, or to the right or left side called a posteriolateral disc herniation/protrusion. It can herniate forwards called an anterior disc herniation/protrusion, but this presentation is less common.
So what can happen if your disc is herniated?
If your disc is herniated it may cause no symptoms and have no effect on your life whatsoever. It is common for people to have some degree of disc herniation without symptoms. However if your disc presses or impinges on your spinal cord or peripheral nerves, you will have symptoms associated with this. This is the most common presentation that I see on a daily basis.
For example if your disc at the very base of your back has herniated to the right, and presses on a nerve at the level of L5/S1 you will have pain in your lower back, mainly to the lower right side, with or without pain down the back of your leg.
This leg pain is due to the nerve being pinched which results in the nerve referring pain down its course. You may have pins and needles, numbness and leg weakness due to the nerve being pinched.
For years herniated discs were called slipped discs or discs out of place. The correct term is disc herniation and in most cases they respond excellently to conservative physiotherapy treatment.
Early intervention and diagnosis is the key. Poorly treated disc herniations can cause permanent damage to the nerve impinged, so seek medical intervention and not anything else from the outset.
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