Disc injury is a common cause of back pain, where the outer fibres of the disc become damaged, allowing the gel-like centre to protrude. This protrusion can impact on the nerves or spinal cord causing both localised pain, as well as neurological symptoms into the arms or legs. Disc injury is often described as burning or stinging, and can be very painful.
People in their 30s, 40s and 50s are most susceptible, with more males affected than females. Disc injury is usually caused by a particular activity, such as lifting or twisting. Over 85% of patients with symptoms associated with an acute herniated disc will resolve within 8-12 weeks. Patients can often get frustrated with the slow recovery of disc injuries, particularly as their quality of life is impaired. However, symptoms will gradually improve with the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, ice packs, mobility exercises and physical therapy. Not all will respond well to conservative intervention, which is why you will often be referred for imaging to ascertain the extent of the injury and options for medical intervention. Epidural injections and selective nerve root blocks are second-line modalities and can allow patients to get moving and rehabilitate themselves back to health.
For most, surgical intervention is a last resort but results are largely positive in reducing symptoms, but does not prevent future-proof episodes of back pain from recurring.