Before getting to what disc tear is, let us understand where the vertebral disc is present in the body. It consists of two major parts, annulus fibrosis and the nucleus pulposus. The outer shell is called the annulus, which contains the soft gel-like substance called the nucleus pulposus. Our vertebra in the spine has a disc located in between. It provides us stability and works as a shock absorber.
The difference between a healthy disc and a torn disc is that it has a tough outer shell and soft inner material, whereas a torn disc has a broken outer shell with the inner material seeping out of it. The symptoms can be very painful. Further in this article, you will read about its causes, symptoms, and disc tear treatment.
Causes of disc tear
Mostly the cause behind a disc tear is aging. With growing age, the disc starts getting weakened and loses its durability. However, there can be other reasons, like excess weight, twisting motions, and putting too much pressure. Excess weight can put pressure on the disc leading to its tear. Lifting weights beyond your stamina can be the main reason behind small cracks in the disc. Similarly, accidents can cause the disc to tear.
Symptoms of disc tears can vary. If the tear is not severe, it will not have symptoms, but it also causes a problem. If you are not aware of tears, you unconsciously do a pressurizing activity which can lead to severe pain. Severe tears can cause the disc to bulge, discomfort, excessive pain, swelling in the arms and legs, and numbness. If the bulging disk is not that serious, the patient will not have that much pain. If the bulging disk reaches the level of herniation, then it will require disc tear treatment. Certain symptoms of the bulging disc are:
- Pain in the fingers, arms, neck, or shoulders: This usually indicates the bulging disc in the cervical area.
- Pain in the buttocks, feet, thighs, or lower spine indicates the lumbar region’s bulging disc.
- Difficulty in movement: Another symptom can be difficulty moving your feet or arms or even lifting things.
Some of the severe symptoms can be bladder incontinence. It leads to pressure on nerves controlling the bladder, compressing the nerves. Upper back pain causing sensations in the chest and stomach needs emergency medication. Muscle spasms can also occur in such situations.
If you feel any of the symptoms mentioned above, you must see a doctor.
The diagnosis includes an X-ray or CT and MRI scans. MRI does not work in many cases, so a CT scan will be needed to study the tears in depth. These are required to be thorough with the issue. The CT test involves the injection of a liquid dye into your disc and being observed on a CT scan. These tests help doctors learn about your disc’s condition to provide you with the needed treatment.
Disc tear treatment is recommended when the situation is severe. The treatment begins with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs along with heat and ice packs. The heat packs are suggested to increase the blood flow through the area where the tear has happened. If it works, then gradually, physical therapy will get started. Other things that the treatment involves are acupuncture and massage. Once your disc starts showing results, doctors recommend light yoga and walking. It is necessary to keep the ligaments in movement.
Disc tears occur with aging, but it does not mean youngsters cannot face it. So, you must keep the symptoms in mind and take necessary precautions. If you feel any of the symptoms related to disc tears, you must see a doctor.