About Herniated disc and Sciatica in relation with it

| In Articles | 6th August 2019

Disc herniation is a common and rapidly increasing 21st century disease. It can cause major back pain and if left untreated, can lead to more serious complications. Next, you will find out what disc herniation is, what are its' causes and symptoms, and the simplest methods of treatment.

disk herniation and sciatic nerve - spine affections

What is a disc Herniation?

In general, hernia means a medical condition created by the movement of an organ from its cavity.

Disc herniation is a neurological condition that occurs when one of the disks of the spine moves.

More exactly, the intervertebral discs are cartilages located between the vertebrae. These discs have three important roles:

  • they ensure the stability of the spine
  • allow movement of the vertebrae
  • works as a shock absorber, protecting the vertebrae from shock or wear and tear

An intervertebral disc has two components: the fibrous ring and the pulpous nucleus. The hernia appears when the fibrous ring breaks, and the pulp nucleus begins to move through that crack. In most cases the nucleus is pressing on a nerve in the area of the spine, which leads to nerve pain specific to the hernia, named Sciatica.

Sciatica (the nerve pain created by hernia) appears when pressure is added on the sciatic nerve by various reasons (some of them can be muscular) but most of the time it is caused by the herniated lumbar disc compressing the sciatic nerve.

If you have a sudden sharp pain going from the lumbar area down to one of the legs, go to the Emergency room at the hospital as you need to see a doctor. Even if is not a life threatening medical condition, because of the pain and the incapacity of moving you might still need somebody else support to take you there. In this type of situation it is very important to know and tell the doctor what sections of your body are numb and don't respond properly to commands.

If you get numbness in between the legs this is a very important sign to pay attention to, as a fragment of the intervertebral disc can separate and slide along the spinal cord adding pressure to the end of the nerve. If in maximum 6 hours the patient is not having surgery to remove that part, a urinary catheter will be used for the rest of their life as the nerve responsible for bladder filling will be damaged forever.

In this situation, surgery (named Lumbar discectomy) is the only way to save the patient by removing the herniated or degenerative disc from the lower spine. Before the surgery, Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is mandatory to help the surgeon to locate the intervertebral disc fragment which needs to be removed.

A posterior incision (minimally invasive) is made through the back muscles, to remove the disc that is pressing on the nerve.

Types of disc herniation

Depending on the position where it appears, they are 2 types of herniated disc:

Cervical disc herniation

Occurs when the affected disc is placed in the upper area of the spine, near the neck.

Lumbar disc herniation

The one we most talked about in this article and the most common. Is happening when the affected disc is located in the lower back

Causes and risk factors of Disc herniation and Sciatica

Many of our daily activities, or their absence can lead to a herniated disc. Some of them can be:

  • A sedentary lifestyle (people working from home or in an office)
  • Sitting in an incorrect position on an office chair
  • Too much physical effort (at the gym or at work)
  • Exercises wrongly done
  • Smoking
  • Being exposed to vibrations for a long time

Some other factor not related to a life style, are

  • Aging
  • A Trauma to the spine
  • Being overweight
  • or genetic inheritance

Even if Disc herniation and Sciatica are often associated with aging is important to know that no age category is protected from this condition.