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A herniated disk is also known by many individuals as a pinched nerve, a bulging disk, slipped disc, and in many cases, any other type of spinal injury that causes pain, discomfort, and limited range of motion. A herniated disc, or a disc that has bulged beyond its boundaries within the spinal column may be found at any length of the spine, from the cervical (neck) area of the spine, to the chest or upper torso (thoracic), or lumbar (lower) area of the spinal column. Most herniated discs of the spine occur either in the cervical or lumbar area.
A herniated disc is often diagnosed by a physician following certain procedures, including a gathering of the medical history, which will include recurrent or past health problems, past surgeries and treatments, family of history illnesses, or other concerns broached by a patient. The doctor will perform a physical examination to determine the function and health of muscles, nerves, and the musculoskeletal system, most especially the spine.
A herniated disk often compresses nerve roots in the spine that cause a variety of symptoms including but not limited to numbness, weakness, and inability to move without experiencing pain, decreasing mobility and range of motion.
Diagnostic tests may also be performed, including traditional x-rays, a CT scan (computerized technology or tomography) that enables the physician to view cross sections of the spine as well as its interior, as opposed to just the skeleton as displayed by a traditional x-ray. The doctor may also want an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) that displays specific anatomical placement of spinal nerves, disc alignment, configuration, as well as the presence of swelling or bulging along the spinal column and canal.
A discogram may also be recommended, which utilizes the use of radiographic dye injected into a damaged, swollen or diseased disc to determine the exact location of the disc causing pain. However, consumers should know that this type of diagnostic is not commonly performed as accuracy and validity of results are often questionable.
Treatment options for herniated disk may include:
Conservative, nonsurgical care for herniated disc may include pain relief and inflammation reduction through the use of nonsteroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like naproxen or ibuprofen, epidural injections to reduce inflammation and for pain relief, as well as oral steroids for pain relief and to decrease inflammation. In some cases, narcotic pain medications may be prescribed to encourage pain relief and increase mobility. Physical therapy is often suggested as well as gentle exercise, and time. In some cases, a bulging or herniated lumbar or cervical disc may resolve itself within 4 to 6 weeks, but a combination of treatment options including those listed above may be used in combination for faster, more effective recovery.
However, individuals experiencing constant or chronically severe pain as well as loss of mobility and function who don't experience any resolution or relief from conservative treatments may undergo surgery as an option.
Lumbar decompression surgery or procedures known as microdecompression or microdiscectomy is used to treat nerve compression caused by a herniated disc in the lumbar region. The surgical procedure is a minimally invasive technique that utilizes the removal of a portion of the disc pressing against a spinal root nerve.
Anterior (front) or posterior (back) cervical decompression, also known as a discectomy, is often utilized in bulging disks in the cervical or neck region.
Anyone who suffers from the pain, lack of mobility, and reduced range of motion and function of the body caused by a herniated or bulging disk will benefit from conservative or surgical treatments for a herniated desk. Mobility, relief of pain, and improved quality of life will result from most combined conservative treatments, though options for surgical procedures provide the most benefit to those suffering from chronic pain of degenerative disk conditions.
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