Easing back pain from herniated disks

NORTH PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Sooner or later, most of us will experience back pain. Most of the time, it's due to muscle strain.

But when disks in the spine are involved, it requires serious attention.

Usually, however, there's no need for surgery.

Every day, Dr. Theresa Pazionis of Temple Health talks back pain, and she says herniated discs are a common cause.

Disks are the shock absorbers between the backbones or vertebrae.

When one becomes herniated, the coating ruptures and some of the filling slips into the spinal canal, pressing on nerves.

The herniation can happen after car accidents, heavy lifting, or other strenuous activities.

"Oftentimes, they won't be aware and they'll just have this insidious leg pain," says Dr. Pazionis.

Sometimes, herniated disks cause a combination of leg and back pain.

"Different nerve roots that are being compressed will give you different locations of pain. So maybe on the front of the leg, in the back of the leg, the side," she says.

If the herniated disk compresses the root of the sciatic nerve, the pain is called sciatica.

Fortunately, herniated discs don't generally need surgery.

"Most people will respond to a trial of physical therapy. Generally the disc can absorb and your body can take care of it," she notes.

But Dr. Pazionis says there are red flags that call for more, such as feeling numb, not being able to move part of your body, or if your bowel or bladder doesn't work.

"That's a surgical emergency," she says.

For any back pain, Dr. Pazionis says a doctor's input is essential.

"We're always happy to explain it to you, go over the imaging and explain the best options for you," she says.

But prevention is the best medicine.

Use proper lifting techniques, and stay in shape, especially your abdominal muscles.They support the back.
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