Spinal discs are the rubbery pads in between the vertebrae within the neck and back. These discs are firmly embedded in place and held together by ligaments which all connect to form the spinal cord. When the joints or vertebrae of the spinal column are overtaxed or move out of place, this can damage the spinal cord and the vital network of nerves that runs through the spinal canal, causing a host of unpleasant problems.
Causes of Disc Injuries
Typically, an injury to one of the spinal discs will stem from one of the following:
- injury or impact
- overall wear and tear of the spine
- excessive weight or obesity putting pressure on the spinal column/nerves
- degradation of the spine due to age or certain health conditions
- lifting heavy objects or twisting abruptly
Common Disc Injuries
Each disc is comprised of a strong, outer layer and a soft, gel-like center. Although the discs themselves do serve as shock absorbers, separating the vertebrae and keeping them from rubbing together, they are actually much less pliable than most are led to believe. As children, they are fluid or gel-like sacs, but begin to harden as we age. This results in discs that are more easily susceptible to trauma and injury.
The most common spinal injuries include:
Bulging/Herniated discs- These conditions occur when the soft center of a spinal disc pushes on the tougher exterior. The minor difference is that bulging discs protrude outward but do not fully break the exterior or the annulus, whereas herniated discs break through that outer layer.
While bulging and herniated discs are more common in the lower back or lumbar spine, they can also occur in the neck or cervical spine. Although a patient’s symptoms may vary depending on the level of degradation and location of the disc injury, the weakness and pain can be debilitating at times.
Spinal stenosis- Simply put, spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal column. If the narrowing is extensive enough, it compresses the spinal cord and places stress upon the nerves which can cause a host of unpleasant symptoms: pain, tingling, numbness, and muscle weakness. All of which can interfere with the simplest of tasks, such as walking or standing for extended periods of time.
How Epidural Steroid Injections Can Help
One of the most effective treatments we offer for neck and back pain, including disc issues, is epidural steroid injections. In this procedure, medication is injected with a syringe into the epidural space of the spine (a fat-filled area that covers the spinal cord for protection).
It then spreads throughout the epidural space, making its way to other parts of the spine. The medication is a combination of a local anesthetic and anti-inflammatory (or corticosteroid), making it extremely effective in providing relief.
Typically, the entire procedure takes about 15-20 minutes with patients typically able to resume daily activities the next day. The steroids typically begin working within 1 to 3 days but may require up to a week to provide full relief.
If you think you may be a good candidate for epidural steroid injections, contact us today at (813) 733-7631 for more information or to schedule a consultation.