Don't wait any longer to find relief for your herniated discs.
To understand what herniated discs are and why they develop, it is firstly important to cover the basics of spinal anatomy. Your spine – or backbone – is composed of 33 small bones called vertebrae, which are stacked on top of each other and allow movements such as bending and twisting.
These bones are separated by rubbery “cushions” called intervertebral discs. These discs are made of cartilage and act as shock absorbers during movement, protecting the spine’s bones from friction damage.
Each intervertebral disc is a doughnut-like structure made of two parts: a stronger outer ring of fibrous cartilage (the annulus fibrosus) and a gel-like soft core (the nucleus pulposus).
When the outer ring becomes thinner, weaker, or drier, the nucleus fibrosis may start to push against it and, eventually, break through it and pour out. This can cause a herniated disc, a condition also known as slipped or ruptured disc.
Herniated discs are often the result of disc degeneration and trauma, but several risk factors may lead to this condition. Let’s look at them below.
Herniated discs are more common amongst people between the ages of 30 and 50. This is because, as we age, the intervertebral discs become drier and more prone to cracks and tears. However, during middle age, most individuals are still mobile and active. The combination of these two factors can make herniated discs more likely.
Occupational activities such as manual labor and operating heavy machinery, as well as sports that involve carrying or lifting weights, throwing, or twisting can increase the risk of suffering a herniated disc. These motions add excessive stress to the spine over long periods, which can contribute to premature degeneration of the cushions between the vertebrae.
Some injuries and traumatic events may put the intervertebral discs under sudden pressure and stretch the annulus fibrosus behind capacity. When considering the jam-filled doughnut analogy, a traumatic event can have a similar effect to pressing on the doughnut, which causes the outer crust to crack and the jam to pour out.
Some traumatic injuries that may lead to herniated discs include whiplash from vehicle collisions and sudden twisting movements.
A sedentary lifestyle can compress the intervertebral discs, especially in the lumbar spine (low back). The vibration from a car engine, coupled with being in a seated position, may put frequent drivers at risk of disc problems.
Some risk factors may make disc herniation more likely. These include:
It is important to note that disk herniation may develop from simple movements such as bending forward, lifting a mild weight, or tying your shoes.
According to estimations, only 1-3% of patients with a herniated disc will develop symptoms. However, if you are experiencing pain or you suspect that you’ve suffered a slipped disc, you should not let this condition go unaddressed.
Ruptured or herniated discs can lead to severe chronic pain, reduced mobility, or periods of disability.
As the intervertebral discs start to bulge from their original position, they may also start to compress the nearby spinal cord. This is the passageway that houses all nerves connecting the brain to the muscles, limbs, extremities, and organs. When this happens, you may suffer nerve pain and, in severe cases, permanent nerve damage.
Herniated discs can affect any intervertebral disc in the spine, but they are more likely in the cervical (neck) and lumbar (low back) sections. Here are the symptoms caused by this condition.
One of the first symptoms of disc herniation is pain. This can be described as sharp or shooting, radiating to the arms or legs – depending on which area of the spine is affected. These painful sensations are due to the slipped disc compressing the nearby nerves that emerge from the spinal cord.
As seen above, a herniated disc can compress the nerves in the spinal cord. When the sensory nerves are affected, the normal signaling of touch, pain, vibration, and temperature between your extremities and the brain is inhibited. This leads to sensations of numbness and paresthesia – or tingling, “pins and needles” pain.
When the nerves are compressed, irritated, or damaged, you may experience muscle weakness or involuntary movements like cramps and spasms. Underuse of muscles can also lead to further weakness or shrinking of muscle mass.
Because of the limited blood and oxygen supply the intervertebral discs receive, herniated discs can take weeks or months to heal. While the pain can range from mild to severe, this condition can certainly impact your ability to work, practice sports, be productive, or take part in social events.
At first, using pain relievers and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may seem like a valid alternative to ease the pain. However, taking these medications for months at a time can expose you to significant side effects, including increased risk of stroke and heart attack, stomach ulcers, and dependency.
Fortunately, painful surgical procedures and pill-popping are no longer the two options available to treat herniated discs. Let’s look at the regenerative treatments at Orthagenex that combine to create a program that eases pain in the long term and supports the body’s ability to heal naturally.
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) refers to autologous blood samples that have been processed to have platelet concentrations that are 10-40 times higher than baseline levels using a lab setting. The use of PRP in regenerative medicine has received significant interest, due to its ability to deliver high concentrations of growth factors precisely and non-invasively to an area in need.
PRP procedures involve injecting the body’s own healing factors (platelets) into the injured tissue using image guidance with fluoroscopy and MSK ultrasound. This procedure can be used to treat a variety of orthopedic conditions, including joint instability, minor arthritis, ligament, and tendon injuries, and strains.
More than 30 randomized controlled trials have been carried out on the effectiveness of PRP to support the body’s ability to heal naturally by stimulating the cells within the targeted area.
Stem cells are an essential component of the human body and play an important role in the repair of injured bones, ligaments, tendons, and other tissues. However, when we age or suffer an injury, the body may become unable to deliver enough stem cells to the area in need.
To help with this, bone marrow concentrate procedures at Orthagenex use imaging guidance to deliver concentrated bone marrow containing stem cells to the area in need. This encourages the body’s inherent ability to heal itself by replenishing cell population in the injured area.
In practice, bone marrow concentrate procedures are carried out by cannulating the bone near the pelvis with a trocar, a sharp-tipped device. This provides a narrow tunnel that can be used to collect samples of the bone marrow’s liquid component, which is rich in stem cells and growth factors.
BMC procedures can assist patients in improving their spine health and mobility without the lengthy and painful rehabilitation periods associated with fusion surgery.
At Orthagenex, we recognize the debilitating nature of herniated discs and the significant discomfort they bring. For many, the traditional route has been invasive disc repair surgery, often accompanied by extended rehabilitation and the potential for complications. However, with the advancements in medical science, we now have a revolutionary approach to disc treatment using stem cells.
Stem cells possess the unique ability to transform into various cell types, making them an invaluable tool in the realm of regenerative medicine. When applied to herniated disc treatment, stem cells can potentially target the damaged areas, promoting natural repair and rejuvenation. This stem cell procedure not only alleviates the pain associated with herniated discs but also aids in restoring the disc’s natural function.
Our stem cell treatment focuses on using the body’s own natural reservoir of stem cells to aid in the repair process. This procedure is minimally invasive compared to traditional disc surgery, leading to shorter recovery times and fewer potential complications. Additionally, it offers an alternative to long-term medication use, which can have its own set of side effects.
Learn more about regenerative orthopedic treatment for your herniated discs.
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