Aging along with continual wear and tear on our body’s natural shock absorbers (spinal discs between vertebrae) can weaken the lower back. When spinal discs become damaged, intense back pain can occur that may radiate to nerves down the leg and foot. Herniated disc symptoms may appear for no apparent reason or can be caused by over exertion due to heavy lifting. When someone is experiencing pain from a lumbar herniated disc, the episode may be short lived or last up to six weeks, with the body’s natural defense systems going into action to resolve damage due to degenerative disc disease. During the episode, the pain can affect nearby nerves causing painful spasms in the lower body including the entire leg and foot. A numbness or weakness may be felt when standing. Herniated disc symptoms usually affect one side of the body. When the pain initially presents, the first 48 hours are generally the most intense.
At the onset, your physician may recommend more conservative methods for lumbar herniated disc pain relief, which include:
1) Pain medications, such as Ibuprofen or Naproxen (NSAIDS or non-prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) may be recommended. Take these as directed for pain, tenderness, inflammation and joint pain. NSAIDS are not advised for people with longer-term lumbar problems related to surgery.
2) Ice Packs, applied in the first 48 hours of back pain may ease inflammation. Ice massages help slow inflammation and nerve impulses, interrupting muscle spasms. A cold press will cause veins to contract and when removed, blood infuses back to the area bringing healing and relief to damaged tissue.
3) Muscle Relaxers to be taken on a short-term basis may be prescribed by your doctor. Some of the common ones are: Baclofen, Chlorzoxazone, Carisoprodol, Cyclobenzaprine, Dantrolene, Diazepam, and Metaxalone.
4) Applying Heat, via a heating pad or heat wrap, even a hot bath may help muscle spasms in the first 2 days of initial pain. Heat helps soft issues to stretch, dilates blood vessels and decreases pain signals giving some relief to the discomfort.
5) Alternating ice/heat therapy works for some patients as they convalesce. The combination of light activity should resume as soon as possible to avoid pain and joint stiffness.
For long-term relief, your physician may recommend epidural steroid injections for the treatment of lumbar herniated disc pain. Studies show that the procedure is successful for patients suffering from sciatica due to disc herniation as well as lumbar spinal stenosis. Patients experience 50 percent less pain within a year following injection.
If you are experiencing chronic back pain, talk to your primary care physician to be referred to a pain management specialist near you. For more information about herniated disk symptoms and treatment, call us at 243-841-8939.