A disc herniation occurs when the inner gel-like nucleus pulposus material ruptures through tears in the layers and bands of the annulus pulposus (see image).
The diagnosis of a herniated disc (HNP – herniated nucleus pulposus) can be devastating and frightening. Most patients suffering with acute disc herniations have excruciating pain in the lower back, buttocks, and legs (if nerve roots irritation is involved).
Similar to disc protrusions, herniated discs can be incapacitating for the patient. Due to the severity of the injury, the body tightens the muscles surrounding the spine to stabilize the injured area, often resulting in frequent muscle spasms. The patient will have severely limited movement and motion in the lumbar spine, and will have extreme difficulty changing positions including rising from a chair, rolling over in bed, leaning forward or backward, or twisting the torso. Patients will often find coughing and sneezing very painful, and will often have to stabilize their body prior to sneezing.
In some cases, total herniation or rupture of the disc occurs and the inner nuclear material from inside the disc, is able exit the outer layers of the lumbar disc and come in contact with the nerve roots exiting between each pair of vertebrae. When then nucleus pulposus material comes in contact with the nerve root, it initiates a massive inflammatory reaction and response. This is due to the fact the body’s immune system and white blood cells have never been in contact with nucleus pulposus, and view the nuclear material as a foreign substance (just like a bacteria or virus). The severe inflammatory reaction inflames the nerve root resulting is excruciating, burning pain down the leg which is not alleviated by changing positions or even with most medications or pain relievers. This is known as chemical radiculitis and is one of the most painful conditions that a patient can endure. Frequently, chemical radiculitis will result in an emergency room visit and subsequent epidural injections or other injection.
Herniated discs are one of the more difficult conditions to treat, and therefore many patients end up having back surgery with a goal of alleviating their pain and getting their “life back”. Unfortunately, lower back surgery has some of the poorest outcomes and worst patient satisfaction rates following surgery – as low as 53% according to recent studies.
Fortunately, technologically advanced treatments including DRX Spinal Decompression therapy can effectively reduce the size and severity of disc bulges, protrusions, and herniations resulting in reduced pain and improved ability to function for the patient. For more information, or to see if you are a good candidate for DRX Spinal Decompression therapy, contact our office at (386) 337-3884.