The past two years haven’t been kind to anybody and particularly to those who have had a history of lower back pain. Between the physical tolls of house chores and working from home, it is not uncommon to hear people say they are suffering from severe joint stiffness and achy feeling in their lower spine. The thing with back pain is it sneaks up when you least expect it. One minute you are working on your laptop and the next minute you feel shooting pain in your spine when you try to stand up and that’s it, your day is ruined. Could you have a herniated or slipped disc? Well, you might. Does it mean you have to spend the rest of your life dealing with chronic back pain? Absolutely not.
What causes a herniated disc?
Our spine is made up of 24 small bones called vertebrae. They are stacked one above the other and in between two vertebrae, there are flexible discs that act as a cushion and prevent injury to the spine. These flexible discs have a thick outer layer and a soft jelly-like inner part called the nucleus. A herniated disc happens when a part of the disc nucleus pushes out of the thicker outer layer and presses on the spinal nerves. Result? When that happens, it causes pain, weakness, burning sensation, tingling, numbness in your back, and one of the most common reasons for leg pain.
Effective Treatments for Herniated/ Slipped Disc
Rest: Tried and tested by others, rest can relieve swelling and gives your back the required time to heal. Make sure you avoid exercise where you have to bend or lift. However, do note that bed rest is fine for a brief period, don’t stay off your feet for longer than 2 days. The light movement will prevent your knees or joints from stiffening up.
Physical therapy: Do you know certain exercises can help you in improving the symptoms of a herniated disc? Take the help of a physical therapist as they will be able to educate you on which ones strengthen the muscles that support your back. Usually, they suggest Aerobic exercises, massage, Ice and heat, ultrasound therapy, electrical muscle stimulation, etc.
Usually, a doctor recommends non-invasive treatments for the first few weeks. It is because most patients with a herniated disc improve with medications, rest, and physical therapy. However, if the pain is severe and affecting the quality of your life, your doctor may advocate for more advanced methods of pain control like epidural steroid injection.
What can I expect from Epidural Steroid Injection?
If rest and physical therapy don’t help with your pain, your doctor can suggest you herniated disc epidural steroid injection to bring down the swelling and help you move more easily. In this method, you inject steroid medicine into the space around your spinal nerve that helps to ease down back pain, and tingling sensation in the legs, and targets other concerning areas.
The reason why most people are gravitating towards injection is that the pain is hard to tolerate and they are looking for relief. Many patients experience some pain relief benefits. Duration of pain relief varies, lasting for weeks or years. But, mind you injections are done in conjunction with a home exercise program that helps your body to strengthen the back muscles and to further prevent future pain episodes.
On a final note,
You should remember, that there are consequences of delaying treatment and while you may say you have high pain tolerance and are okay with pain killers but you should know, that just because the pain subsides does not mean it has healed. In fact, an untreated herniated disc can lead to much more severe issues that become chronic. To prevent it from worsening, it is better to go for herniated disc epidural steroid injection before it causes permanent nerve damage.