"Ruptured Disk - Symptoms & Best Treatment"

A ruptured disk is synonymous with a herniated disk and is very similar to a bulging disk.  A ruptured disk may occur anywhere in the spine, but is most common in the cervical and lumbar regions of the back.  A ruptured disk refers to an intervertebral disc that has shifted out of its anatomical position between two vertabrae.  An intervertebral disc is like a cushioning placed between your vertabrae to stabilize and help with shock absorption.  You have 7 vertabrae in the cervical spine, 12 vertabrae in the thoracic spine, and 5 vertabrae in the lumbar spine.

The intervertebral disk has an outer laminated ring of fibrocartilage that when “ruptures,” allows the inner core of fibrogelatinous material to extruded into the epidural space.  The extruded material can compress pain sensitive structures and “pinch” a nerve in your back.

A ruptured disk in your back can be caused by excessive loading of the spine, spinal torsion while under a load (twisting), and trauma.  Poor lifting techniques in the workplace can also create a ruptured disk injury.

Picture of a Ruptured Disk.

What are the Symptoms of a Ruptured Disk in Your Back?

As you have a ruptured disk in your back, symptoms may include muscle weakness and severe diskogenic back pain that radiates into the leg(s) or arm(s).  Often a deep burning pain is accompanied by paresthesia (numbness and tingling) in either the leg(s) or arm(s).

A ruptured disk can place an extreme amount of pressure on pain sensitive structures.  Some body positions will alter the behavior of the symptoms.  Symptoms may be intensified during sitting positions, frequent bending, sexual intercourse, twisting, when transitioning from sitting to standing, and during coughing or sneezing.  A ruptured disk may also be associated with night pain and prolonged morning stiffness.

A back pain doctor, usually an orthopedist or neurologist, will order the proper diagnostic testing to confirm the presence of a ruptured disk.  Common testing for the proper back pain diagnosis usually includes an x-ray, an MRI, a CAT scan, and EMG testing.

Best Treatment for a Ruptured Disk in Back

The treatment(s) for a ruptured disk are not favorable with conservative care alone.  Back pain management doctors usually perform epidural steroid injections to treat difficult cases of ruptured disks.  As epidural steroid injections fail, a laminectomy surgery may be a viable course of treatment.

Prior to laminectomy surgery, treatment may include physical therapy, massage therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic care, and back pain therapy techniques.

Ruptured disk treatment goals would include pain reduction, reduced paresthesia in the extremities, improved positional tolerances, and a return to regular activities of daily living.

A ruptured disk in your back can cause permanent nerve damage as proper treatment protocols are ignored. Your physician will recommend the correct course of treatment and proper protocol for your ruptured disk condition.

Tommy Hoffman, P.T. By Tommy Hoffman, Licensed Physical Therapist


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