Warning Signs of a Herniated Disc and Treatment Options You Should Know

Warning Signs of a Herniated Disc and Treatment Options You Should Know

Approximately 80% of people are believed to experience some kind of back pain. How much or how little the pain varies according to age, but most people would agree that they too have experienced some form of back pain at one time or another. For some it’s more general back pain which may be due to muscle strain. For others, however, a possible cause of the pain could be a herniated disc. These patients generally have to seek the help of a doctor. Pain from a herniated disc is usually very intense and causes other painful symptoms in addition to just back pain, such as pain that extends down through one or both legs along with muscle weakness to the point of being unable to walk properly, inevitably disrupting the patient’s daily lifestyle, activities and routines.

What Is a Herniated Disc and How Does It Cause Back Pain?

The intervertebral discs in the spine are a type of cartilaginous joint, the nucleus of which is made up of a highly flexible, jelly-like substance called mucoprotein gel. The discs are like pads that serve as cushions between the individual vertebrae of the spine. They serve two primary purposes: they allow spinal movement, and they act as shock absorbers bearing the impact of weight traveling down through the spine. If a disc is impacted to the point of damage or rupture, the injury can cause some of the inner gel-like substance to bulge or protrude out through the tougher outer ring of the disc, compressing the surrounding nerves and causing pain and discomfort. 

Herniated Disc: What are the Symptoms?

A herniated disc can be excruciating. In addition to back pain, there may also be other problematic issues such as:

  • Pain that radiates all the way down one or both legs
  • Muscle weakness in the legs that prevents the patient from walking normally
  • Numbness in one or both legs
  • Difficulty walking or difficulty walking distances

Of course, all of these issues inevitably interfere greatly with normal life and activities.

Causes and Factors Contributing to a Herniated Disc

  • A herniated disc is caused by deterioration of the intervertebral disc, most often the result of gradual age-related wear and tear.
  • As you age, the internal gel-like substance of your spinal discs begin to lose their flexibility, causing the discs to slip out of place more easily and press on the surrounding nerves.
  • An important factor in accelerated disc degeneration is a person’s lifestyle and daily habits. Some people do a lot of heavy lifting in their work and do so using the wrong motions, causing the discs to bear the strain of too much weight.
  • For athletes, or those who play sports, a herniated disc can be the result of repetitive motion and heavy impact on the discs or a sudden twisting movement.
  • Overweight individuals are also at increased risk of herniated discs due to the additional weight that the discs must support.

All of these can be contributing factors toward accelerating disc degeneration or causing a tear or rupture of the disc, putting pressure on the surrounding nerves.

Herniated Disc Diagnosis

Evaluation usually begins with a complete physical examination and a review of the patient’s medical history, including a review of the symptoms. In patients with lower back pain and other signs of nerve compression, such as numbness, muscle atrophy, or muscle weakness, the evaluation will usually include an X-ray or MRI to assess the presence of herniated discs.

Are Herniated Discs Treatable?

Herniated discs are treatable. If the patient has only minor symptoms, the doctor will recommend medication and physical therapy. If, however, the back pain is so severe that the patient cannot carry on a normal life and everyday activities, the doctor will recommend a treatment method known as Minimal Access Microscopic Spinal Surgery. This is an MIS (minimally invasive surgery) technique that has been developed and advanced greatly in recent years, so anyone due to receive this treatment can feel confident and at peace. Because this type of surgery involves minimal pain with very small incisions—just the size of a fingertip—the risk of infection is extremely low. Most importantly, it allows patients to recover very quickly, so there’s no need to worry about long hospital stays. After surgery, patients can go home within 24-48 hours. > MIS (Minimally Invasive Surgery), which uses innovative surgical technology that has made groundbreaking and progressive developments in recent years. The benefits of this type of surgery are far less pain, an incredibly small incision only the size of a fingertip, much lower risk of infection, and very importantly, the patient has a much faster recovery rate, eliminating the need for long, drawn out hospital stays. Following surgery, the patient is typically able to return home within 24 – 48 hours.

Minimally Invasive Surgery (MIS) – New standard of care for surgical procedures


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What are the Advantages of Herniated Disc Treatment Using Minimal Access Microdiscectomy?

A Minimal Access Microdiscectomy is a Minimally Invasive Surgery technique with many advantages, including;
●    Less disruption or damage to tissue than traditional open surgery. With small incisions, disruption to muscle structures and damage to tissue is reduced and so the likelihood of fibrosis post-surgery is also minimized.
●    The incision size is very small, just 1 centimeter long. A smaller wound results in reduced blood loss—typically only 1 cc of blood. The recovery period after surgery is also shortened, because the small wound size means faster healing, and patients only need to recuperate in the hospital for one night after undergoing surgery.

To Preparation Before Herniated Disc Surgery

Preparing the body prior to the surgery involves undergoing laboratory examinations, such as a blood test, urinalysis, EKG, X-ray, or other examinations at the discretion of the doctor. Generally speaking, patients with spinal disorders are more likely to be older rather than children or young adults. When elderly patients undergo any type of surgery, suitable preparations must be made. For example, if the patient has an underlying or chronic disease and takes regular medications, especially any drugs that affect blood clotting such as aspirin or warfarin, etc., these should be discontinued 5-7 days prior to surgery.

After surgery, how many days does it take to recover and what postoperative self-care steps should be taken?

If herniated disc surgery has been performed using the Minimal Access Microdiscectomy technique, the recovery time is considerably short—just one day. Patients should be able to walk on their own on the day of the surgery and return home the very next day. With regard to postoperative self-care, there are things that should be avoided, such as lifting heavy objects or bending the back within one month after surgery. One to two weeks after herniated disc surgery, patients should be able to drive normally, cook, go back to work, and pretty much go back to their normal lives and daily activities. That said, even after herniated disc surgery, recurrent disc herniation occurs in about 8% of cases. After surgery, therefore, it’s important that patients practice good self-care, avoid lifting heavy objects, and use correct posture throughout the day so as to avoid the most direct causes of disc herniation.

Prevention of Herniated Discs

The best option is always early prevention; you can prevent the likelihood of herniated discs by simply employing proper techniques when moving or using your back. Some important steps to take include:

  • Avoid lifting heavy objects
  • If you must sit for long periods of time try to stretch and change positions frequently
  • Work to develop and maintain core muscle strength (this includes both the back and abdominal muscles).
  • If you know your bones are not particularly strong, try to avoid sports that involve frequent jumping or heavy impact to the spine, and take up swimming and other lighter forms of exercise that focus on increased flexibility.

All of these changes can help to extend the lifespan of a healthy spine and intervertebral discs and prevent premature disc deterioration.

The Sports and Orthopedic Center at Samitivej, Bangkok, Thailand also reaches out to anyone suffering from orthopedic injuries, or from acute or chronic damage to bones and joints. Our center brings together a highly accomplished team of 38 orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists and sports injury and physical rehabilitation experts. We pair these experienced experts with the latest orthopedic and physical rehabilitation equipment, ensuring all patients receive the best possible care.

Samitivej has a team ready to help and provide services for:

  • Treatment Plan Consultation with a doctor via online video-call (second opinion)
  • Treatment Planning if you have medical records or a price estimate from another hospital 
  • Cost Planning by our Appraisals Team with price guarantee (only for procedure packages without complications)
  • Check Initial Coverage Eligibility with Thai and international insurance companies (only for insurance companies in contract with the Hospital)

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