Find out more about Ruptured Disk
Things You Must Know When Dealing With a Ruptured Disk
A herniated or ruptured disk may be a result of strain, trauma, or simply aging. When this happens, the nerves in the spine become compressed and can cause pain, general weakness, or numbness. A ruptured disk typically occurs either in the lower back (the lumbar area) or the neck (the cervical area.) The area in between rarely suffers from a ruptured disk. In this article, let’s learn more about the condition and how to deal with it.
Let’s start off with the spine where the discs are found.
The spine or backbone is a series of bones connected with each other called “vertebrae.” Meanwhile, the vertebrae are linked by discs. These discs have tough outer layer and gelatinous center. Their main function is to cushion the vertebrae so movements can be done without a hassle.
As a person gets older, the soft center of the discs may start to lose water. When this happens, they may also become less effective when it comes to cushioning. As they continue to deteriorate, their tough outer layer may also tear. Consequently, the center of
a disc may be displaced; hence, it becomes a ruptured disk.
The ruptured disk would occupy the space of the nerves and spinal cord and as it does this, it can result in pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness.
A ruptured disk is diagnosed by first going through an extensive clinical evaluation. This process will help the doctor determine the location and character of the pain. Typically, abnormal reflexes and the loss of sensation can tell whether there’s a ruptured disk and where it is located.
After physical evaluation, the doctor will recommend you to undergo other tests such as X-ray, CT scan, or MRI scan. Basically, the X-ray can show whether bones spurs are narrowing the space of the discs down and causing the pain. However, it can’t determine a ruptured disk. The CT and MRI scans are the ones which can provide a more solid result in finding a ruptured disk. As both can show the details of the spinal elements such as the vertebrae, spinal cord, discs, and nerves, they can easily identify a ruptured disk.
Apart from these, a nerve conduction study may also be performed to check for any signs of nerve damage which can result in a ruptured disk.
Although both surgical and non-surgical treatments for ruptured disk work, nothing beats prevention. To lessen your risk of having the condition, it is important to practice some safety precaution while working or playing. If your job requires you to lift a lot, you should learn about some proper lifting strategies. You should also learn how to control your weight because being on the heavier side can make you more prone to back injuries such as a ruptured disk.
Majority of people with a ruptured disk don’t need to undergo surgery. Initially, you will be advised to try conservative cures such as taking pain killers and anti-inflammatory drugs. The medication as well as its dosage will depend on how serious your pain is. The main goal is for you to feel comfortable as soon as possible. Although a ruptured disk is not exactly fatal, its pain can be quite debilitating.
After prescribing you some pain medications, the doctor may also suggest that you take some time to rest. You may want to consider buying a cervical pillow if your ruptured disk is in the neck area. This pillow can significantly relieve your discomfort while resting. You may also want to try one of those rectangular aroma therapy pillows. They come with herbal scents which can make you feel more relaxed. They are also microwavable so you can use them for heat treatment of the ruptured disk.
You see, ice or heat treatment can be a practical choice when dealing with a ruptured disk. The former can help lessen inflammation. By simply using an ice pack for 20 minutes several times a day, you can already make the swelling go away. Heat treatment, on the other hand, can be used in alleviating the tenderness of the muscles.
For cervical ruptured disk, there are also neck braces available. Some of them already come with ice/heat packs so they can be very convenient for your condition.
If you feel like you need someone to help you with the ruptured disk, you may want to consult with a chiropractor. He or she can help manipulate your backbone to relieve some pressure. He or she may also help ease some sore muscles.
Finally, another non-surgical procedure for ruptured disk is by simply slowing down. It would be advisable to refrain from running, dancing, or doing other vigorous activities until you’ve completely recovered from a ruptured disk. Any pressure on it will just worsen the situation.
If conservative ruptured disk treatments don’t work and the pain becomes more and more excruciating, the doctor may suggest that you undergo surgery. He or she will discuss the options, depending on your own unique case. As with other surgeries, it is crucial to consider various factors like age, personal preference, and overall health.
Operating on a ruptured disk is not considered risky especially if you have a good surgeon. But of course, it is a must that you weigh the risks and benefits carefully. While a lot of ruptured disk patients claim that undergoing an operation helped them a lot, there’s really no guarantee that it will cure the condition completely.
Here are some surgical options for ruptured disk:
Artificial disc surgery—Replacing a ruptured disk with an artificial one.
Discectomy— Partial or complete removal of a ruptured disk.
Laminotomy—A ruptured disk operation which involves making an opening in a vertebral lamina to alleviate pressure on the roots of the nerves.
Laminectormy—Removal of the lamina.
Spinal Fusion—A ruptured disk surgery which involves grafting a bone onto the spine to link two or more vertebrae by using rods and screws.
Managing Herniated Cervical Disc through ACDF
Cervical herniated disc surgery would perhaps be the last option in managing herniation of the cervical disc. Most of the management done for this kind of condition tends to be conservative such as physical therapy, massage and other relaxation measures. However, when the resulting arm pain and discomfort tends to be beyond tolerance and appears to be affecting the nerve tissues, cervical herniated disc surgery might be advised by the physician.
Through technology, many surgical approaches may be done to manage herniated disc, a very common form of surgery would be the Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion or simply ACDF. This surgical procedure involves an incision in front of the neck and commonly employed to alleviate nerve or spinal cord compression.
This cervical herniated disc surgery consists of two phases. The first phase called discectomy is where the removal of the vertebral disc that causes damage and removing the resulting pressure from the inflammatory process can be done. The second part of the cervical herniated disc surgery is the fusion of the affected vertebra and its adjacent bone, done to maintain and stabilize the cervical structure and facilitate movement upon recovery.
Despite the popularity of this form of surgery to relieve the discomfort of herniated discs and preventing the recurrence of disc herniation since the said part is removed, this procedure comes with potential risks. The common complaint of patients who undergone this type of cervical herniated disc surgery is inability to swallow or frequent need to swallow for a couple of days. Hoarseness and changes in the voice as a result of retracting the esophagus and adjacent parts may also be seen among these patients.
Patients who recently underwent cervical herniated disc surgery or ACDF, must also be watched for potential problems from the surgery such as infection of the operative site, bleeding, delayed or abnormal healing of the vertebra and permanent damage to the structures near the herniated cervical disc.