Herniated disc symptoms can be very serious, and can lead to quite a bit of disability. This article will discuss the most common symptoms associated with a herniated disc in each region of the spine, as well as some tips for what you can do at home for relief.
But before we discuss the symptoms, we need to first have an understanding of how a herniated disc causes pain. The discs of the spine are cushions that separate each set of bones in the back. They are shock-absorbers, and they are each composed of two main parts – a strong outer covering called the annulus, and a soft jelly center called the nucleus.
If you take a close look at the spine, what you will see is that the nerves of the spine are located directly behind each disc. These nerves are very important, because they control everything in the body.
When a disc herniates, the outer covering of the disc tears, and the jelly begins to shift from the center of the disc, into the area where the disc has been damaged. This creates a bulge in the disc, and unfortunately, the disc most commonly will bulge right where the nerve is located.
This causes pressure to be applied to the affected nerve, which is truly what causes the majority of the symptoms associated with a herniated disc.
In fact, one interesting fact about the spinal discs is that they do not have the ability to feel pain sensations – in other words, even if the disc is damaged, you can’t feel it. This makes sense when you consider that the discs are absorbing shock all day long – if you could feel this, you would be in pain all day!
So, the question is – if this is true, why can this condition cause so much pain? Well, the answer is because the nerves are involved – the aggravated nerve is actually what causes all of the symptoms.
With this in mind, let’s discuss the most common herniated disc symptoms that can occur in each region of the spine. Let’s begin with the neck, and work our way down.
A herniated disc in the cervical spine (neck) will typically cause symptoms such as neck pain and/or stiffness, headaches, shoulder, arm and hand pain (which may be experienced as sharp pain, burning, stabbing, numbness, or a pins and needles sensation), dizziness, ringing in the ears, blurred vision, thyroid problems (which can lead to weight problems), chest pains, and even heart palpitations (a feeling that your heart is pumping strongly in your chest).
This is a perfect example of what I was mentioning earlier – as you can see, these symptoms can involve much more than neck pain. The reason for this is because these areas of the body are controlled by the nerves in the neck, and pressure on a cervical nerve from a herniated disc will cause these parts of the body to malfunction.
The most common herniated disc symptoms for a thoracic disc (mid-back) are mid-back pain, shoulder, arm and hand pain (same as in the neck – the type of pain can vary), traveling pain around the rib cage, chest pain, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, neck pain and tension, headaches, and digestive problems (the nerves in the thoracic region of the spine control the gall bladder, which is a very important organ involved with digestion).
In the lumbar region (low back), the most common symptoms are low back pain and weakness, pain traveling down the leg (this pain can be a sharp pain, burning, stabbing, pins and needles, or numbness), leg weakness, knee pain, problems with the bowel or bladder, and sexual organ dysfunction.
So, when these symptoms occur, what can you do about them? Unfortunately, most of the treatments doctors usually recommend are not as effective as most would like them to be. They may provide temporary relief, but long term relief is not common with the typical treatments.
Most doctors will recommend medications (usually pain relievers and muscle relaxers), pain injections (such as cortisone and epidurals), physical therapy, and surgery (as a last resort, usually). The reason these treatments do not usually provide long term relief is that they are primarily focused on numbing the aggravated nerve.
This may sound good on the surface, but if you do not address the cause of the problem (the herniated disc), the pain will inevitably return.
After working with thousands of patients who suffer with this condition, I’ve found that there are actually a number of treatments that do address the disc itself, and a combination of these treatments are usually most effective at providing results.
In addition to this, there are a few things you can do at home for relief from herniated disc symptoms. The most common mistake I see people make with this condition is that they want to use heat for relief.
This is actually the worst thing you can do – ice is always the best choice when you are experiencing pain. Ice will numb the nerve, and reduce the inflammation in the problem area. Heat, on the other hand, will just aggravate the nerve and cause additional swelling around the nerve, which causes the pain to last longer than it needs to.
When using ice, apply it over the injured disc for 15 minutes, and wait at least an hour before you apply it again. You will need to repeat the treatment multiple times for the best results, and if you’re in a lot of pain, expect to use the ice consistently for at least 3 days before you experience considerable relief.
If you would like to learn more about the most effective treatments you can use to alleviate herniated disc symptoms, you can visit http://www.HealYourBulgingDisc.com for the full details.
Dr. Ron Daulton, Jr. is a chiropractor, a national speaker, and author. Visit http://www.HealYourBulgingDisc.com for more info.
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