It would not be out of place to guide the people afflicted with herniated discs to some of the efficacious remedies to cure the back pain as incidence of the cases is on the rise now-a-days. Causes are not unknown. Incidents of falling down while boarding and getting off buses and other means of the public transport system, sustaining injuries in road accidents and attacks by miscreants, in sport activities/competitions/ matches such as foot ball, cricket, tennis, badminton, baseball, basketball — athletics i.e., boxing, wrestling, weight lifting, long jump, high jump, car racing, and also — on the cultural front, the most strenuous, arduous and toilsome demonstrations in the multifarious forms of art; for example — stormy dance contests and other gimmicks, acrobatics and juggleries in the name of art and cultural activities/programs in T.V. reality shows — are, in different degrees, responsible for the ever- growing incidence of the disc rupturing/slipping cases.
What is a herniated disc?
A herniated disc, commonly called a “slipped disc” or a “ruptured disc” or a “broken disc”–is most often a consequence of an accident resulting in a rupture, lifting any thing too heavy or in a wrong way, causing an injury or trauma in the spine. In other words, it involves a disc slipping/rupturing/breaking.
A person with the back pain, leg pain or weakness of the extremely lower muscles is diagnosed as a “patient suffering from a herniated disc.” A herniated disc is caused by a sudden fall or an accident or may occur gradually with repetitive straining of nerves. Most often the people, who experience a herniated disc, already have “spinal stonosis”-a problem that causes narrowing of the spinal cord and spinal nerves. When a herniated disc occurs, the space for the nerves is further diminished, and irritation of the nerve results.
What is a bulging disc?
Although associated with a herniated disc, a bulging disc is something different, exclusively related to the lumber (lower spine of the back), and a totally old age problem.
The “nucleus pulposus” (the jelly-like substance in the middle of the spinal disc) of the “herniated disc” bulges out through the “annulus” (surrounding wall) and presses on the nerve root next to it. This nerve root becomes inflamed and causes serious pain. The problem may also be caused by degenerative disc disease (spondylosis). The disc consists of about 80 per cent of water. When one grows older, the disc starts to dry out and shrink, causing small tears in the “annulus” and inflammation of the nerve root.
In a case of herniated disc, the decompression takes place quite quickly and causes the disc to slip out, whereas in a case of bulging disc, the decompression takes place very slowly and causes the disc to bulge out.
What happens is that the spinal disc — a soft cushion that sits between each vertebra of the spine — becomes more rigid with age. In a young individual, the disc is soft and elastic, but like so many other structures in the body, the disc gradually loses its elasticity and is more vulnerable to injury. In fact, even in individuals as young as 30, MRIs show evidence of disc deterioration in about 30 per cent of people.
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is also associated with the herniated disc. Sciatica patients experience a severe pain that shoots from the buttocks and hips, and runs down to the legs and feet. This condition is mostly accompanied by back pain felt in the legs. This is why it is also called the “leg pain.” Since it involves the sciatic nerve – the body’s biggest nerve – hence it has been given the medical name “sciatica.” When this nerve gets irritated or disturbed by some pressure, possibly by a herniated disc, the patient feels a burning pain which is medically termed the “sciatic pain.” So, sciatica, essentially, is a by-product of the herniated disc condition.
How does a herniated disc occur?
A person afflicted with a herniated disc, suffers from an unbearable pain and swelling. When the disc (muscular cushion) is displaced from its original position because of an injury or rupture, resulting in an extra growth, the bundle of spinal nerves is pinched from the abnormal growth. The injury to the nerves and the attached muscles produces “prostaglandins” which cause a severe pain in the back, neck, waist, shoulders and sometimes in the arms and legs as well.
When the spinal disc becomes less elastic, it ruptures. When so happens, a portion of the spinal disc pushes outside its normal boundary – this is what’s medically termed a “herniated disc.” When a herniated disc bulges out from between the vertebrae, the spinal nerves and the spinal cord, it gets pinched. There is normally a little extra space around the spinal cord and spinal nerves, but if enough of the herniated disc is pushed out of place, then these structures may be compressed.
Symptoms of herniated disc
The compression of the spinal cord or the spinal nerves turns them out of order. This means that abnormal signals may be passed from the compressed nerves, or signals may not be passed at all.
Electric shock-like abnormal sensations caused by any pressure on the nerve, and the pain going down to the arms and then to the legs, feeling of the abnormal sensations of tingling, numbness, or pins and needles in the same region as painful electric shock sensations, and weakness of the muscles because of the nerve irritation – are some of the symptoms a herniated disc patient experiences.
Remedies and therapeutic Options
In the treatment of herniated disc cases, there are two types of remedies and therapeutic options; the first being the surgical and the second one the non- surgical.
It is only allopathic system of medicine that adopts the surgical option as the last resort when the use of all other artificial remedies– the counter-pain medication and pain-killers such as “ibuprofen” prove ineffective in the treatment of a case of back pain striking either from a herniated disc or a strained/pulled muscle. In more serious cases wherein all the non-surgical remedies and therapeutic techniques fail to give a quick relief, the patients writhing in pain are promptly rushed to an allopath who, with the consent of the patient’s relatives, go ahead for the surgery without any delay, if he is a surgeon himself; otherwise he refers the case to a surgeon or any government hospital. This kind of surgery conducted on a herniated disc patient is medically termed “disc fusion” and “discectomy” in which dislocated disc is replaced in its original position, extra growth caused by the dislocation removed and finally the bundle of spinal nerves that was strained due to the abnormal overgrowth normalized.
However, there is a little difference between a disc fusion and a discectomy. Disc fusion – also called “spinal fusion” – involves replacement of an artificial disc in the lumbar spine. It is considered the best treatment particularly for the “degenerative disc disease.”
Discectomy – also known as” spondylodesis” or “spondyloryndesis” – is a surgical technique usually used to combine the two or more vertebrae. This procedure is used primarily to alleviate the pain caused by abnormal motion of the vertebrae by immobilizing the vertebrae themselves.
Supplementary bone tissue is used in conjunction with body’s natural “osteblastic” processes. Thus the central portion of an intervertebral disc, the nucleus pulposus, which causes the pain by straining the pain by stressing the spinal cord or radiating nerves, is
Then, the disc material pressing on the spinal nerve or spinal cord is completely removed. The intervertebral foramen — the bone channel, through which the spinal nerve runs — is then enlarged with a drill giving the nerve more room to exist the spinal canal.
To open the vertebrae from collapsing and to increase their stability, the open space is often filled with bone graft, taken from the pelvis or cadaveric bone. The slow process of the bone graft joining the vertebrae together is called “fusion.” Sometimes, a titanium plate is screwed on the vertebrae to increase stability, especially when there is more than one disc involved.
The surgery requires a short stay of one to three days in the clinic and a gradual recovery takes 4 to 6 weeks.
Non-surgical methods of treatment may be adopted and used from various medical systems of curing diseases such as allopathic, homeopathic,natural/physical, Unani/Ayurvedic, and the last but not the least, Yoga.
Although universally popular, allopathic system of medicine (a method of treating disease with remedies that produces effects different from or opposite to those caused by the disease itself) has never and nowhere found to be as efficacious as other alternative medical systems of treatment, natural/physical remedies (physiotherapy), homeopathy and, of course — conventional but still more efficacious systems of medicine — Unani/Ayurvedic and Yoga — that have been ceaselessly improved upon over the years by means of further study, research, development and new experiments from time to time. Allopathic system gives a quick but temporary relief whereas other systems give a slow but lasting relief.
Allopathic principle of medicine cures the effect of disease leaving its cause untouched. This resurfaces in any other form of the disease in future, while homeopathic system of treatment (a system of medicine that attempts to cure patients with heavily diluted preparations/drugs which cause effects similar to the symptoms produced by the disease…quite opposite to allopathic) gets to the bottom of the problem and eradicates the very cause of disease by its root. If diagnosed with the exact symptoms of the disease and administered an accurate medicine to the patient, the disorder disappears in a trice.
Physiotherapy is another option by which natural elements/agents such as solar energy, the water, the air, electricity, ice, etc., is resorted to, and has also been proved quite effective in the treatment of diseases. As mentioned earlier, despite amazing efficacy and utility of the homeopathic and natural remedies, allopathic system is still in vague all over the world, and there is nothing wrong with resorting to this option. However, the natural methods of curing diseases including homeopathy being a permanent solution to the whole problem, are by all manner of means, more deserve to be discussed and explained in detail in such a way as to attract more and more people, especially those afflicted with a herniated disc.
The natural method of treatment comprises a schedule of specifically prescribed exercises plus therapeutic techniques and a well-programmed bed rest. These remedies will definitely bring a quick relief from the pain and steadily accelerate the pace towards a complete recovery, regardless of the cause for the pain. Following are some suggestions with regard to the use and application of the natural therapeutic techniques to the herniated disc patients on the way leading to a durable relief and successful recovery from the back pain.
Natural Remedies-Non-surgical options
The first and foremost among these remedies are some medically prescribed techniques that follow:
Ice Pack: Ice, in fact, is the best solution, especially to the problem of strained nerves. While watching a competition of boxing, you may have definitely noticed a boxer receiving an injury in his face from the rival. The first thing his coach does is to apply an ice pack to the injured area in his face. Applying a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel to the site of injury also serves the purpose, if ice packs are not available in the nick of time.
Ice Massage: In most of the cases ice massage has been experienced to be quite effective and useful. Take a cube of ice and rub it around the affected area in a circular motion.
Hot packs: Hot/warm packs have been found an effective solution only to the problem of pulls/strains. These should be used only after trying the ice packs.
Body Massage: In using the massage technique, there is no need for any masseur or massage specialist to massage the patient’s body. Any of the ordinary persons/relatives can do the job very easily and comfortably. The only requirement is-oil. If you don’t have the special massage oil, take a little quantity of olive, mineral, or any ordinary oil that is within your reach. You may mix a little bit of “vanilla extract” to give it a nice scent. Pour a handful of oil on the affected area of the back and rub it gently. A back rub does not require a massage therapist. You can do it yourself without any difficulty. Just do what feels good to you and massage gently.
For the cases of herniated disc, the first step towards recovery is bed rest. Though it is not possible to lie in bed all the time, the patient is best advised to do so as much as possible.
First Stage: Lay the patient on a strong and firm mattress to ensure that the back is placed as straight as possible. Moreover, the pillows should also be firm to ensure straightness and alignment of the bed. Taking rest in this way will help the body repair any damage done as a result of the disc rupture.
Second Stage: Elevating legs has been experienced to have provided higher degree of comfort in the recovery process. Place a small to medium size pillow underneath the patient’s knees. It will lessen some of the pressure that may have been put on the back of the patient while being laid down on the bed. Elevating thighs slightly may also be helpful.
Third Stage: Place a pillow or any other soft object between his legs. It will help him remove any pressure that may have been applied to the affected portion of the back. While getting out of bed, the patient is well advised to take special care not to move suddenly, rather push self into a sitting position by using a side of the body instead of the back. However, lying on the stomach is not advisable in this condition.
Fourth Stage: For a patient who is on bed rest to recover from a back complication, it is essential to consume a raw food with a plenty of fluids. Bed rest most often results in the intestinal tract getting slow and it may cause constipation. To avoid this, ingesting uncooked food high in nutrition and drinking fluids as much possible is the best precautionary measure.
Fifth Stage: Applying heat and cold to the aching parts of the body alternatively has also been experienced to have alleviated the pain associated with herniated discs.
These are some of the natural remedies that have been traditionally used for centuries by virtue of their effectiveness in curing herniated discs and they have also proved quite helpful in healing the wounds associated with herniated disc.
These remedies combined with the “pain-killers” prescribed by the physicians can and will definitely ease the pain. Recovery takes normally two weeks in non-surgical cases, and an average of three to six weeks in surgical ones, depending on the severity of the injury. By adopting a medically prescribed program of specific exercises and body movements, desirable results can be achieved.
There is a saying; – “prevention is better than cure.” Following the old adage, some precautionary measures must be taken to prevent the troubles. Among these are the back exercises and abdominal workouts that may prove helpful in strengthening muscles. Daily exercise, walk, jogging, running and also swimming if possible, are some of the best precautionary measures that may help you keep away from major back problems.
Syed Ahmedullah is a professional Journalist with an experience spread over about 40 years in Urdu and English Journalism. The subjects other than media he enjoys, include public health care and other social problems.
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