Herniated Disc

A Herniated Disc – also referred to as a bulged, slipped, or ruptured disc – is a fragment of the disc nucleus that is pushed out of the annulus, through a tear or rupture, and into the spinal canal. Discs are round with a tough outer layer (the annulus); they cushion the bones (vertebrae) that form the spine and act as shock absorbers. Disc herniation usually occurs in the early stages of degeneration.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of a Herniated Disc can vary significantly, depending on the position of the disc and the size of the herniation. If a Herniated Disc does not cause nerve compression, the patient may experience pain in the lower back or even no pain at all. However, a Herniated Disc can lead to further complications.

Sciatica/ radiculopathy may occur following the herniation of a disc in the lower spine. This commonly causes pain and discomfort in the buttocks, into the leg, and sometimes in the foot. A Herniated Disc in the cervical spine (neck) can lead to nerve compression in the neck which can cause cervical radiculopathy. This can cause dull or sharp pain in the neck or between the shoulder blades which may spread down the arm and into the hands or fingers.

Common symptoms of these complications include:

  • Sharp or dull pain in the affected and surrounding areas
  • Numbness or tingling in the affected and surrounding areas

A Herniated Disc can cause nerve compression – when a nerve becomes trapped or compressed when passing through tissue. This can lead to pain and, in severe cases, permanent damage.

Cause and treatment

Herniated Discs are often caused by a single excessive strain or injury; however, it can also be linked to degeneration. Disc material naturally begins to degenerate as we age, causing the ligaments that hold it in place to weaken. As this occurs, it can take only minor strain to cause a disc to rupture.

Evidence suggests that some individuals may be at a higher risk of experiencing disc problems and herniating more than one disc at the same time. Research shows that a predisposition for Herniated Discs may exist in individuals with family members who have been affected.

Treatment options for Herniated Discs can vary depending on the severity and progression of each case. Initially, patients may be advised to limit activity for a few days to a few weeks to reduce nerve inflammation and encourage healing.

Other treatment options may include:

  • Medications – non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) are frequently used to manage mild to moderate pain
  • Physical therapy – including pelvic traction, massage, ice and heat therapy, electrical muscle stimulation, and stretching exercises
  • Surgery – may be recommended if other treatment options are unsuccessful in managing pain

Medical Cannabis and Herniated Discs

Medical cannabis has long been considered a potential alternative to strong painkillers for the management of pain. There is growing evidence that the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) plays an important role in pain signalling. This could make cannabinoids a useful therapy for pain management.

Our specialist physicians are experienced in assessing individual cases and helping to determine whether medical cannabis could be an effective option.

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