Back pain is one of the most common complaints about a family practitioner and will affect 4 in every 5 Americans at some point in their lives. For the vast majority of Americans, this pain is temporary – relieved in a few weeks by rest and recovery. But for some, the pain is constant and chronic. In fact, some 10% of the population has a chronic back pain that is a constant daily struggle. This back pain can be caused by a number of different things but for some, a herniated disc can be the cause.
What is a herniated disc?
A herniated disc is a breakdown of the spongy material that stops your backbones bumping into each other. These discs stop the painful bone on bone contact that would occur when the spine is stressed if not for the spongy intermediate discs. The discs are made up of two layers. The nucleus pulposus and the annulus fibrosus. The nucleus pulposus sits inside the disc and is a softer material than the tough peripheral annulus fibrosus. If the tougher annulus fibrosus breaks down then the nucleus pulposus can bulge out of the disc and compressed spinal nerves running out of the cord. Amongst other symptoms – chronic neurological pain can occur and the pain fibers are compressed and the brain interprets this as the presence of a painful stimulus.
How can you treat a herniated disc?
There are a number of things that might be offered to you including:
- Paracetamol of other simple painkillers
- Topical analgesia like an Ibuprofen gel to rub onto the area
- Steroid injections of various kinds (eg a facet joint block or a cervical epidural injection).
Does cervical epidural injection work for herniated disc pain?
Many patients want to know about the efficacy of treatments before they undertake a procedure such as an epidural. An epidural is where a local anesthetic is injected into one of the layers covering the spinal cord. It is most commonly used for pain relief during childbirth and labor. However, it can also be used in pain caused by disc herniated. A 2006 study by Lin and colleagues at UCLA School of Medicine examined how well this treatment worked. They found that:
- Of 70 patients treated with cervical epidural 63% had a significant relief of their symptoms and did not want surgery thereafter.
- Of the 70 patients, 53 (75%) said they would have a cervical epidural injection again and that it was a good treatment
These results are largely positive – with lots of patients having a significant benefit. As such cervical epidural should be considered for anyone with a disc herniation. It is often provided in specialist clinics dotted across the USA. If you or somebody you know is suffering from back pain, then get in contact with a specialist clinic today to get back to normal as quick as possible.