A spinal disk bulge, slipped disk, herniated disk is a common issue that can occur in any part of the spine. It refers to the soft cushion pad that is located between our vertebra at all levels. The role of this disk is to ensure smooth fluid movement between each vertebra whilst acting as shock absorber while doing so. The disk has a soft jelly like texture in the centre portion often referred to as the nucleus, this nucleus is enclosed within a tougher more resilient rubber like tissue known as the annulus. When damage occurs in the disks, we have many terms for recognising this, disk bulge, herniated disk and slipped disk are all referring to over compression or torsion like movements that have causes its jelly like nucleus within the centre of the disk to push out of its surrounding rubbery exterior. A disk bulge can occur at any level and when present can cause aggravation to nearby nerves causing symptoms to present.
Symptoms of disk bulge or a herniated disk can vary depending on severity and the level in the spine that is occurs at.
If you have a disk issue in the lower back you may feel pain in your buttocks and into your thigh and lower leg, occasionally this is associated with foot pain on the same side.
Alternatively, if your disk damage is higher in the spine you may notice symptoms to refer into your arm hand a finger. This could be sharp shooting type pain that can sometimes be provoked by sneezing or coughing.
Numbness and tingling
Numbness and tingling are a typical symptom associated with disc damage and it will affect those areas in which the affected nerves symptoms are e.g. hands, fingers or feet and legs.
It is important to note that you can have a herniated disk without symptoms. You may not know unless you have spinal imaging. You should seek help as soon as your symptoms include:
- Worsening symptoms
- Pain that travels into arms or legs
- Numbness tingling and or weakness
Causes and risk factors
The main cause for disk damage is often as a result of gradual wear and tear over a number of years. Degeneration occurs within the disk itself which causes a reduction in the hydration of this disk in turn losing is flexibly making it more prone to injury. Occasionally if your work or sport requires lifting heavy objects using your back muscles to lift as opposed to using correct form and lifting through your legs you can increase the risk of damage to this disk occurring.
Risks and home preventions
Disk degeneration is a natural process within the body so there are limited options is reducing the possibility of this happening here are a few things that are associated to increasing your risk of having a disk injury.
Smoking – Smoking has been said to lessen the oxygen supply to the disk resulting is faster degeneration.
Genetics – Some people inherit a susceptibility to developing a disk injury
Weight – Excess body weight causes extra compression throughout the spine
Occupation – Those who have physically demanding jobs have greater risk of developing back problems, repetitive movements related to pushing pulling lifting bending and twisting all put extra stress on the back. To minimise the chance of a back injury you should always use correct lifting posture.
To aid the prevention of disk injuries:
Exercise regularly – truck and core exercises to relieve stress on the back.
Maintain good posture –aim to reduce pressure on the spine. if you are stationary for long periods of time be sure to walk around every few minutes and avoid lifting heavy objects with poor form.
Healthy weight – ensure you are keeping fit and healthy maintaining a healthy weight for your specific requirements.
No smoking – avoid any tobacco-based products.