Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Why are herniated disks so painful?"
My wife has a herniated disk and she is in a lot of pain. I'm trying to be helpful. Why are these things so painful?
I'll explain how a herniated disc occurs which may help to explain why they are so painful. The disc in "herniated disc" refers to the cartilage that sits in between the vertebrae. Inside this cartilage sits a liquid like material called the nucleus pulposus. A herniated disc occurs when the back is injured from lifting something heavy and results a bulge of this liquid protruding out from the cartilage. This bulge, or herniation, compresses one of the nerves that is entering the spinal cord. This causes a lot of pain because these nerves carry pain signals from the lower body to the brain. When one of these nerves gets compressed, it can feel like a shooting pain coming from the feet all the way to the lower back. The key is to get pain control with anti-inflammatory drugs and get to physical therapy as soon as possible. I suggest that you schedule an appointment with your wife's primary care physician. He or she can examine your wife's back and recommend treatment. Most likely, your wife needs adequate pain control and referral to physical therapy. If she does not respond to physical therapy, then she may need referral to orthopedic surgery for a surgical consultation.
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