Back pain is extraordinarily common, with 80% of Americans dealing with low back pain sometime during their life, and 25% reporting back pain in the past three months alone. These pains lead to a loss of up to 200 billion in lost wages for workers. There are a wide variety of causes for back pain, including arthritis, sacroiliac joint pain, muscle strain, and bulging spinal discs.
Disc injuries are a common type of back pain, can happen anywhere in your spine, and can lead to pain or weakness in other areas, such as your limbs. Let’s determine if your back pain is caused by a disc injury by looking at what a spinal disc injury is, some common causes, and how to spot them.
If you live in the Pittsburgh, Washington, or McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania areas, and you’re dealing with back pain associated with disc injuries, Dr. Jocelyn Idema and her skilled medical team at Steel City Spine and Orthopedic Center can help.
Understanding spinal discs injuries
Spinal discs are the springy cushions located between your vertebrae (the bones in your spine) and act as shock absorbers for your back and keep the bones from grinding against each other. They are composed of a spongy exterior called the annulus and a jellylike center referred to as the nucleus.
Injuries to these discs, referred to as herniated, ruptured, or slipped discs, are the result of a tear in the annulus, causing some of the nucleus to leak out. It often happens in the lower back but can occur anywhere in your spine. They often cause pain on one side of the body and can lead to numbness, tinging, weakness, and arm or leg pain.
Common causes of disc injuries
Often these injuries are caused by straining your back from lifting heavy objects, twisting or turning to lift or move something, or experiencing other motions that place strain on your spine. Being obese can also put strain on your spine and force your back to endure more stress and strain from basic actions, along with inactivity, weak muscles and age.
Other factors that increase the risks of spinal discs injuries include smoking, frequent driving (stemming from sitting for extended periods and the vibration of the vehicle wearing down your spine) and inherited family traits.
Ways to identify disc injuries
Injuries in different parts of your spine may present in various ways. In the lumbar region (the lower part of the spine), it can be connected to pain along the sciatic nerve (also known as sciatica), which presents with shooting pain along the nerve path affecting your buttocks, legs, and feet. This can also cause tingling in the legs and feet as well as muscle weakness.
A cervical herniated disc (disc injury to the neck) causes symptoms like pain in your scapulas (shoulder blades), pain that affects your shoulder, arm, hands and fingers, neck pain that can worsen with moving or bending it, and numbness and tingling of the arms.
These injuries can be managed and treated, but if you’re in pain, getting examined to discern the area and extent of your injuries is vital to getting the best treatment. If you're dealing with these symptoms, make an appointment with Dr. Idema and Steel City Spine and Orthopedic Center today to get treated.