Common Back InjuriesA common back injury, especially from trauma, is the herniated disc. The spine is made up of a series of connected bones called "vertebrae". The disc is a combination of strong connective tissues which hold one vertebra to the next, and acts as a cushion between the vertebrae. The disc is made of a tough outer layer called the "annulus fibrosus" and a gel-like center called the "nucleus pulposus." Through trauma, like an accident, the center of the disc may water content, making the disc less effective as a cushion. This may cause a displacement of the disc's center (called a herniated or ruptured disc) through a crack in the outer layer. Most disc herniations occur in the bottom two discs of the lumbar spine, at and just below the waist.
Herniated Disc InjuriesA herniated lumbar disc can press on the nerves in the spine and may cause pain, numbness, tingling or weakness of the leg called "sciatica". A herniated lumbar disc may also cause back pain, although back pain alone (without leg pain) can have many causes other than a herniated disc. Herniated discs are typically diagnosed through an MRI or CT scan. At first, doctors will treat the injury conservatively with physical therapy, manipulation, and steroid injections. They also often prescribe pain medications and exercise for the patient.
Treatment for Back InjuriesIf the conservative non-surgical treatment is not effective, the next step is frequently surgery. This is performed either by an orthopedic surgeon or a neurosurgeon. The goal of surgery is to make the herniated disc stop pressing on and irritating the nerves, causing symptoms of pain and weakness. The most common procedure is called a "discectomy" or "partial discectomy," in which part of the herniated disc is removed. Some surgeons use an endoscope or microscope in some cases.
After a successful surgery, you can expect a reduction in pain and tingling in your legs. After physical therapy, you can often return to work and recreational activities.