Back pain and leg pain can be caused by a number of factors, the most common of which is a herniated disc. In fact, it is more likely that a person will have a herniated disc in his or her lifetime, than not. Approximately 80% of Americans will have back pain at least once in their lifetime and more than 67% of Americans will have herniated discs even without back pain. Typically, the symptoms for this type of back injury include a feeling of pain from the back and buttocks down to the leg. Many patients associate this pain with their sciatic nerve. Other symptoms might include a numbness and tingling sensation in their leg as well as weakness.
Back pain from a herniated disc is most commonly the result of hereditary genes but other causes include lifting too much weight or consistent slouching of the spine. In these instances, the spinal disc may come under stress and protrude backwards, causing the disc to push against the nerve root, signaling the brain as pain. If the patient feels a sense of weakness in the leg, this is typically more cause for more concern and immediate action is recommended.
The good news is that 80% of people will have resolution in their herniated discs in about 6-8 weeks, without the need for surgery. Treatment for those patients include physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medication, and spinal injections.
Physical therapy to treat patients with back pain caused by a herniated disc involves working to push the disc back into place and centralize the pain to the back and away from the leg. This type of physical therapy is performed by spine-trained physical therapists who utilize the McKenzie method, a type of treatment that emphasizes education and active patient involvement to decrease pain quickly and restore function and independence, minimizing the number of visits to the clinic.
Anti-inflammatory medications may also be prescribed to reduce inflammation around the nerve and ease back pain. Lastly, another alternative approach to surgery to help with the symptoms is a spinal injection. Spinal injections are out-patient procedures that involve a fluoroscopically-guided injection of a steroid solution to the site of pathology, which helps to decrease inflammation around the disc that is pushing on the nerve root.
If the herniated disc does not heal on its own or with the help of the above treatments, the final option is surgery to remove the part of the disc that is pushing on the nerve. At the Spine and Sports Center, we perform minimally invasive surgical procedures with a short recovery time of about a week.
Chronic back pain negatively affects a person’s quality of life and should be addressed and diagnosed as soon as possible to eliminate the possibility of other more serious injuries. If you suffer from any of the above symptoms, call us today to schedule an appointment to determine the safest, most cost-efficient options for you.