A herniated disc is a condition that can occur at any level in the spine, but mostly it occurs in the lower back. It is also called protruding, slipped, bulging or ruptured disc. It is one of the most common reasons for leg pain as well as lower back pain.
The spine is made up of 24 small bones called vertebrae, which are stacked one above the other. Five such vertebrae make up the lower back or lumbar spine. In between two vertebrae, there are flexible intervertebral discs, which act as a cushion/ shock absorber and prevent injury to the spine. They have a thick outer layer (annulus), and a soft jelly-like inner part called nucleus. A herniated disc happens when a part of the disc nucleus pushes out of the annulus and presses on the spinal nerves. This causes pain, weakness, numbness, burning, or tingling in the lower limb and the lower back. This condition is also called Sciatica. Sciatica affects around 1-2 % of people between the ages of 30 and 50.
Tips to Reduce Pain Caused by Lumbar Herniated disc:
Applying heat or ice packs
For mild to moderate herniated disc pain, you can reduce the inflammation by applying a heating pad or ice pack on the affected area. It can help in reducing the pain and inflammation in the spine.
Maintaining correct posture
Reducing the pressure on the lumbar spine can help in relieving the pain. Avoid activities that exert pressure on the spine like wearing high heels, standing/ sitting for long hours, and sleeping on the stomach. Use your knees and hips (squatting) while lifting heavy objects and keep your back straight. Avoid repetitive/ continuous reaching or bending. Try to maintain a good posture while sitting or standing.
There are some exercises and stretches, which can help in reducing the pain due to a herniated disc. A physical therapist can teach you those exercises which can help reducing pressure on the disc and improve the strength and flexibility of the back muscles. As your back muscles become stronger, the pressure on the disc reduces, which further decreases the pain.
For mild to moderate pain due to disc herniation, you can take over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication and get relief. Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, and naproxen are some of the most popular choices for OTC pain relieving drugs. Medications provide temporary relief from the pain. Therefore, a doctor should be consulted before making OTC drugs a part of daily pain relief regimen.
Try to maintain a healthy body weight. Excess fat, especially around the abdomen, can strain the muscles and bones in the lower back. Do core strengthening/ abdominal muscle exercises to improve the stability of the spine. Engage in a regular physical workout and consume a healthy well-balanced diet with more fresh fruits, veggies, proteins, and complex carbs.
Treatment for Lumbar Herniated Disc Pain
A doctor usually recommends noninvasive treatments for the first few weeks. Most of the patients with a herniated disc may improve with rest, medications, and physical therapy. However, if the pain is severe, your doctor may advocate for more advanced methods of pain control like epidural steroid injections, or transforaminal epidural steroid injections.
If you are suffering from leg pain or chronic back pain due to a herniated disc, you should consult a Pain Specialist who can help suggest the best treatment options for your condition.