This is a common question I hear from patients who arrive in my office having just visited the physician and learned that they have a herniated disc. They see the x-ray of the spine. They see the MRI or may be the CT-scan. Then get inundated with a lot of information where they don’t understand all the big words AND all of that combined can seem pretty scary and confusing. They often leave not the physician office not really knowing what to do next.
Rather than get all fancy with big medical words, the best way to describe a herniated disc is to think of a jelly donut. The outer donut part is the outer portion of your disc and the jelly part of the donut is the gel-like substance in the inner part of the disc.
A herniated disc has different levels of complexity. Less complex means that the jelly is starting to bulge into the donut part but you can’t see the jelly yet. Moderately complex means that the jelly is bulging more and starting to hit the outer rim of the donut. Severely complex means that the jelly is bulging oozing out of the donut part.
The severe complex is the equivalent of you grabbing a napkin to prevent jelly from messing up your clothes! Except, if the gel-like part of the disc oozes out of the outer portion of the disc, it puts pressure on the nerves and tissues in the area. This can result in pain, numbness, tingling, or sharp shooting symptoms down your leg if the herniated disc is in your back or down your arm if the herniated disc is in your arm.
Is a herniated disc the only thing that can cause pain, numbness, tingling, sharp shooting pain like a lightning bolt, loss of motion, loss of strength, or simply loss of being able to do what you want to do?
The fact is that the pain that you feel, the motion that you are losing, and the weakness that you feel can also be a result of trigger points in a muscle.
Did you know that a trigger point the size of a grain of rice can wreak havoc on your body?
Did you know that the first sign of a trigger point in your muscle is not pain… but weakness?
It is true that a trigger point the size of a grain of rice can prevent your muscles from doing work. When a muscle does work, you get to move the way you want to move.
It is also true that weakness is the first sign of a trigger point. Weakness occurs because the trigger point prevents you from being able to access all the muscle fibers in a muscle. If you can’t use all your muscle fibers, then you can’t work your muscles as efficiently. This leads to using other muscles compensating for the muscles that aren’t working the way they should and now you get pain.
Pain occurs because it is your body’s way of letting you know that something is wrong. That is why you start getting pain in your neck when you try to turn your head to check your blind spot when driving. It’s why you get pain when you try to stand up after sitting on the couch.
Your body is trying to tell you something is wrong. It could be the herniated disc. It could a trigger point. It could be that the movement in your spine isn’t what it should be. It could also be inflammation in the area from irritated joints that either move too much or don’t move enough.
There are MANY reasons you are feeling what you are feeling – having a herniated disc is just one of those reasons.
I encourage you to watch this you tube video to learn more about when surgery may be needed for your herniated disc problem versus when a more conservative option like Physical Therapy may be a great place to start.
If you are scared that you might need surgery, worried that you will have to keep taking pain pills, tired and angry that you keep having to miss out on life because of your pain, lack of mobility, and limitations with what you want to be able to do, then why not get some answers that might help you solve this problem and get you back to living an active life?
You can get started by requesting either the FREE back pain report or the FREE neck pain report – whichever one is best for what you are feeling right now.
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