Nagging Back Pain……It could be Slip Disc
Mention back pain and you realize as if the whole world is suffering from some kind of back or neck trouble. And these days no age group or profession is spared. If the heavy manual labor suffers from back ache due to lifting of heavy objects, the white collar professional suffers it due to what is now called as Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI) that occurs due to adoption of prolonged static postures, be it sitting or standing. One of the commonest causes of back pain is a slipped disc.
To understand back pain and slip disc, first we have to understand the structures that join together to form our back bone. Our backbone is a long column of many bones (vertebrae) that join together to provide a solid bony protection to our spinal cord. Our spinal cord is the main nerve that mediates between our brain and other organs to relay information in the form of electrical impulses. It is one of the most sensitive organs in our body and needs protection from various jerks and shocks that our body is subjected to in day to day life.
Between two adjacent vertebrae, lies a soft cushion like structure that acts as a shock absorber. This structure is called intervertebral disc which in common man’s language is called Disc. The disc has multiple functions. It not only serves as a shock absorber, but also provides flexibility to the spinal column and serves as the largest joint between the two adjacent vertebrae.
What is Slip Disc and Sciatica?
When the disc between two adjacent vertebrae slips and leaves its normal location, it comes to lie close to the nerves that carry sensation to and from the limbs. By causing mechanical and chemical irritation of the nerves, it can cause pain in the back that may also be felt going down the limb. This pain when goes down the lower limb is called “Sciatica.” Sciatica is one of the most painful conditions known to mankind.
How to get rid of Sciatica?
Most of the patients suffering from Slip Disc and Sciatica can expect a reasonably good natural recovery. However, there are a few patients that may not recover naturally and may need some kind of intervention that may vary from a simple injection in the back (epidural steroid) or a nerve root block or surgical removal of the slipped disc.
Surgery for Slip Disc – should one go for it, is it safe ?
For the few patients of sciatica who do not respond to lesser measures and become candidates for surgery, the questions that come to their minds are:
Shall I ever get better..? Would I be able to walk again…? Or am I going to become paraplegic.Though in today’s modern world and technological advancements, these questions may sound unreasonable, but they are not totally unfound. When the patient is anesthetized and the spinal surgeon is working close to important nerves, there is a theoretical possibility of creating an accidental damage to the spinal nerves. As the patient can’t feel anything, there is no mechanism by which this kind of drastic complication can be
Is there a safer method for surgical removal of slip disc?
The answer to this question is a resounding YES. Nowadays, with the technological advancements in optics, scientists have been able to develop fine video cameras (the endoscopes) that can be inserted in the patient’s back through a tiny hole and the treating surgeon can remove the slipped part of the disc that is causing trouble to the patient, all under constant video camera guidance. As the endoscopes are a few millimeters in size, there is no need for giving general anesthesia to the patient. Therefore, this kind of Endoscopic Keyhole spine surgery done under local anesthesia becomes very safe for the patient. There is no risk of damaging the patient’s nerves as the patient is fully awake during the procedure and can help the surgeon change course if he accidentally happens to touch the patient’s nerve.
What is the Recovery Period after this kind of Endoscopic Surgery ?
There is no need of any bed rest after these procedures. The patients can start walking and go home the same day after surgery. The postoperative recovery period is also very short and patients are expected to get back to their daily routine sooner than with conventional methods.
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