Wednesday, April 20, 2016

3 Signs of a Herniated Disc

Almost 80% of all Americans will deal with back or neck pain at some point in their lives.   Because it is so common, it may be difficult to determine if back or neck pain is the temporary result of overexertion or if it something more serious, like a herniated disc. 

A herniated disc occurs when the gelatinous material inside a spinal disc begins to leak through small tears in the outer layer of the disc, called the annulus, causing irritation of the spinal nerves.  Depending upon the area of the spine where the herniated disc occurs, certain symptoms may be present.

Below are 3 signs that your condition may be more serious and may need an evaluation by a fellowship-trained spine surgeon.

1. Cervical Radiculopathy
Cervical radiculopathy is a term that is used to describe radiating pain from the neck into the shoulders and upper extremities, as well as numbness, tingling and weakness.  In many cases, patients believe that this pain is caused by some form of shoulder injury as the pain is most severe in the shoulders and trapezius muscles.  This pain often radiates into the forearms, hands and fingers as well.  There usually is no antecedent trauma and is often caused by simply moving the neck in a certain direction or lifting the head up or down.  These symptoms may be persistent or intermittent.

While cervical radiculopathy is not an actual diagnosis, it is a symptom of nerve irritation in the cervical spine from an underlying condition, such as a herniated disc or a bone spur.

2. Sciatica
Sciatica is one of the most common complaints of those with lumbar spine conditions.  Similar to cervical radiculopathy, sciatica is not an actual diagnosis.  Instead, it is a symptom of a lumbar spine condition, such as a herniated disc or a bone spur.

The sciatic nerve is the longest continuous nerve in the body.  The nerve is the confluence of several nerve roots that begin in your lumbar spine and goes down each leg into your feet.  If this nerve becomes irritated by a herniated disc within your spine, the pain will often radiate down through the entire nerve and cause a burning, electric shock type pain from your lower back through your legs.  Many patients will experience pain while walking, bending, or going from a seated to a standing position.

3. Numbness , Tingling or Weakness in the Extremities
Localized, radiating pain is often the first sign of symptoms for a spinal disc herniation.  If left untreated, these symptoms may progress to numbness and tingling.  Patients often describe the feeling or “pins and needles” in the arms or legs.  On the other hand, burning type pain in both buttocks and lower extremities, which worsens with standing and walking and is relieved with sitting, are symptoms of neurogenic claudication caused by spinal stenosis.

In more severe cases, patients will experience weakness in the extremities, which are known as “motor deficits”.  Motor deficits are an indication that the spinal nerves are perpetually irritated and the electrical signals that run through them are becoming compromised.  Patients will often have difficulty grasping objects, lifting their foot, pointing their toes, or even balancing.  

If these symptoms are present, it is important to consult a spinespecialist, as these symptoms can become permanent if not treated.

Fortunately, the multi-disciplinary spine team at AdvancedBone & Joint can treat a wide variety of spinal conditions.  In most cases, spine surgery can be avoided using a comprehensive approach that includes Interventional Pain Management and Physical Therapy.  If surgery is required, orthopedic spinal surgeon, Dr. David Minges, is up-to-date with the most advanced surgical techniques, including minimally invasive surgery.   This approach can be utilized to treat certain spinal conditions and substantially minimize the postoperative recovery period.

If you, or someone you love, are suffering from an acute or chronic spinal condition – please contact us today to set up a consultation with our fellowship-trained spine surgeon, Dr. David Minges.  Advanced Bone & Joint offers on-site diagnostic imaging and has offices in both St. Peter’s and O’Fallon, MO.

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