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A diagnosis as a herniated disc means that the small disc cushioning the vertebrae of the spine is bulging, torn, or ruptured. The type of damage and the cause of the herniated disc play a large role in what treatment options are available. There are many possible causes of a herniated disc, and age can also play a role in the treatment and injury of the herniated disc.
The most common cause of a herniated disc is an injury to the back or spine. This injury can be a fall, blow, or other incident that puts abnormal pressure on the spine. Small discs exist in between the vertebrae of the spine, acting as a shock absorber for pressure on the back. These discs are made of cartilage type material with a liquid center.
When abnormal pressure is placed on the spine, these discs take the brunt of the damage. They can collapse or rupture, causing the herniated disc. Alternatively, the disc can tear, causing the liquid to push toward the surface, which results in a bulging or herniated disc.
Older adults will be more likely to experience this type of injury than younger adults, due to the degeneration of the vertebrae and discs over time and wear. Children very rarely suffer this type of injury, due to the fact that their vertebrae are much more flexible as they grow. Young adults and middle aged adults are equally at risk for this cause of herniated disc.
When a herniated disc is caused by these types of injuries, physical therapy is typically the first treatment option. More severe injuries, however, may require surgery. However, only about ten percent of the cases of a herniated disc caused by injury result in surgical procedures.
Repeated activity can also cause a herniated disc. This includes activities such as heavy lifting, lifting with the back instead of the legs, or suffering repeated back injuries due to sports or career activity. A herniated disc will not be immediate in these cases. Back pain may be a normal daily occurrence for some time before the patient seeks medical attention, by which point a herniated disc is present.
People in certain careers have a larger chance of developing this type of herniated disc. Construction workers, police officers, military personnel, fire fighters, and warehouse workers are in the most danger of suffering a herniated disc as a result of repeated activity. Professional or occasional sports players may also have this type of herniated disc.
A herniated disc caused by these types of repeated activity are typically treated with physical therapy first. However, a larger percentage of cases of a herniated disc require surgical correction when caused by repeated activity than when caused by injury. Physical therapy, including exorcises to strengthen the back and the teaching of preventative measures during the repeated activity will likely be required with or without surgical procedure.
Whatever the cause of your herniated disc it is important that you contact your medical professional as soon as possible for examination. While most cases of a herniated disc are minor and require little treatment other than rest and pain management, some cases of a herniated disc are more serious. Instead of taking chances, make sure that you contact your physician right away.