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 Bulging/Herniated Disc

Overview

People often confuse a bulging disc with a herniated disc, as it is common to hear the two names being interchanged synonymously. Although these two issues are similar, one is actually different than the other. A bulging disc, (contained) is when one of the soft, jelly-like discs separating each individual vertebra in your spine is damaged and bulges, causing pressure on one of the tangent vertebra. This causes pressure on spinal nerves, sometimes causing severe pain or numbness throughout different parts of the body. A herniated disc (non-contained) is the result of a bulge that breaks through the thin layer of cartilage protecting the jelly-like disc, much like a water balloon. Bulging and herniated discs can happen anywhere in the spine, but most often occur in the lower back.

What Causes a Bulging Disc or Herniated Disc?

Bulging and herniated discs are caused by the deterioration or drying out of the disc over time. As we age, our discs wear down, causing them to allow less shock absorption and flexibility. This causes the thin layer of cartilage to weaken, enhancing the probability of a bulging or herniated disc.

What are the Symptoms of a Bulging Disc or Herniated Disc?

Depending on how the disc is pressing against, bulging and herniated discs can cause severe pain to no pain at all. Along with pain, a bulging and herniated disc can cause numbness. If the pain or numbness is in the buttocks or legs, then the damage is most likely in the lower spine. This is, more often than not, Sciatica, which is the most common symptom a bulging or herniated disc. If the symptoms are in the arms, shoulders, or neck, the bulging or herniated discs are more than likely in the upper spine and neck area. Although both bulging and herniated discs are likely to cause pain and numbness, many people that have had these disc disorders have experienced no symptoms at all.

How is a Bulging Disc or Herniated Disc Diagnosed?

Diagnosis of a bulging or herniated disc is typically done through a simple examination. However, if necessary, doctors may require a CT scan or MRI to determine the problem in the spine.

How is a Bulging Disc or Herniated Disc Treated?

Bulging and herniated discs rarely require invasive surgery. Typically, rest and relaxation is the best way to recover from severe cases of these disc disorders. Doctors usually recommend heating and cooling pads to reduce swelling and pain, and also a number of different daily exercises to help with flexibility and recovery. Also, there are a number of different medicines to help with the pain and swelling, so be sure to ask your doctor what is available and safe for you to take.

Terminology

Normal situation and spinal disc herniation in cervical vertebrae.

Some of the terms commonly used to describe the condition include herniated discprolapsed discruptured disc and slipped disc. Other phenomena that are closely related include disc protrusion, pinched nerves, sciatica, disc disease, disc degeneration, degenerative disc disease, and black disc.

The popular term slipped disc is a misnomer, as the intervertebral discs are tightly sandwiched between two vertebrae to which they are attached, and cannot actually "slip", or even get out of place. The disc is actually grown together with the adjacent vertebrae and can be squeezed, stretched and twisted, all in small degrees. It can also be torn, ripped, herniated, and degenerated, but it cannot "slip". Some authors consider that the term "slipped disc" is harmful, as it leads to an incorrect idea of what has occurred and thus of the likely outcome. However, one vertebral body can slip relative to an adjacent vertebral body. This is called spondylolisthesis and can damage the disc between the two vertebrae.

Signs and symptoms

Symptoms of a herniated disc can vary depending on the location of the herniation and the types of soft tissue that become involved. They can range from little or no pain if the disc is the only tissue injured, to severe and unrelenting neck or low back pain that will radiate into the regions served by affected nerve roots that are irritated or impinged by the herniated material. Often, herniated discs are not diagnosed immediately, as the patients come with undefined pains in the thighs, knees, or feet. Other symptoms may include sensory changes such as numbness, tingling, muscular weakness, paralysis, paresthesia, and affection of reflexes. If the herniated disc is in the lumbar region the patient may also experience sciatica due to irritation of one of the nerve roots of the sciatic nerve. Patients with L3 or L5 herniated disc (usually affecting the knee and leg) also have a high chance of experiencing decreased sexual performance ( erectile dysfunction ) due to the tissue involved with the penile muscle tissue. If the extruded nucleus pulposus material doesn't press on the p tissues or muscles, patients may not experience any reduced sexual function symptoms. Unlike a pulsating pain or pain that comes and goes, which can be caused by muscle spasm, pain from a herniated disc is usually continuous or at least is continuous in a specific position of the body.

It is possible to have a herniated disc without any pain or noticeable symptoms, depending on its location. If the extruded nucleus pulposus material doesn't press on soft tissues or nerves, it may not cause any symptoms. A small-sample study examining the cervical spine in symptom-free volunteers has found focal disc protrusions in 50% of participants, which suggests that a considerable part of the population can have focal herniated discs in their cervical region that do not cause noticeable symptoms.

Typically, symptoms are experienced only on one side of the body. If the prolapse is very large and presses on the spinal cord or the cauda equina in the lumbar region, affection of both sides of the body may occur, often with serious consequences. Compression of the cauda equina can cause permanent nerve damage or paralysis. The nerve damage can result in loss of bowel and bladder control as well as sexual dysfunction. This disorder is called cauda equina syndrome.

Cause

Disc herniations can result from general wear and tear, such as when performing jobs that require constant sitting and squatting. However, herniations often result from jobs that require lifting. Traumatic injury to lumbar discs commonly occurs when lifting while bent at the waist, rather than lifting with the legs while the back is straight. Minor back pain and chronic back tiredness are indicators of general wear and tear that make one susceptible to herniation on the occurrence of a traumatic event, such as bending to pick up a pencil or falling. When the spine is straight, such as in standing or lying down, internal pressure is equalized on all parts of the discs. While sitting or bending to lift, internal pressure on a disc can move from 17 psi (lying down) to over 300 psi (lifting with a rounded back).[citation needed]

Herniation of the contents of the disc into the spinal canal often occurs when the anterior side (stomach side) of the disc is compressed while sitting or bending forward, and the contents (nucleus pulposus) get pressed against the tightly stretched and thinned membrane (annulus fibrosis) on the posterior side (back side) of the disc. The combination of membrane thinning from stretching and increased internal pressure (200 to 300 psi) results in the rupture of the confining membrane. The jelly-like contents of the disc then move into the spinal canal, pressing against the spinal nerves, thus producing intense and usually disabling pain and other symptoms.[citation needed]

There is also a strong genetic component. Mutation in genes coding for proteins involved in the regulation of the extracellular matrix, such as MMP2 and THBS2, has been demonstrated to contribute to lumbar disc herniation.

Narrowed space between L5 and S1 vertebrae, indicating probable prolapsed intervertebral disc - a classic picture. MRI scan of cervical disc herniation between fifth and sixth cervical vertebral bodies. Note that herniation between sixth and seventh cervical vertebral bodies is most common. MRI scan of cervical disc herniation between sixth and seventh cervical vertebral bodies. MRI scan of large herniation (on the right) of the disc between the L4-L5 vertebrae. MRI Scan of lumbar disc herniation between fourth and fifth lumbar vertebral bodies.

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100 Facts About The Human Body

100 Facts About The Human Body (Part I) The human body is an incredibly complex and intricate system, one that still baffles doctors and researchers on a regular basis despite thousands of years of medical knowledge. As a result, it shouldn’t be any surprise that even body parts and functions we deal with every day have bizarre or unexpected facts and explanations behind them. From sneezes to fingernail growth, here are 100 weird, wacky, and interesting facts about the human body. The Brain The human brain is the most complex and least understood part of the human anatomy. There may be a lot we don’t know, but here are a few interesting facts that we’ve got covered. Nerve impulses to and from the brain travel as fast as 170 miles per hour. Ever wonder how you can react so fast to things around you or why that stubbed toe hurts right away? It’s due to the super-speedy movement of nerve impulses from your brain to the rest of your body and vice versa, bringing reactions at the speed of a high powered luxury sports car. The brain operates on the same amount of power as 10-watt light bulb. The cartoon image of a light bulb over your head when a great thought occurs isn’t too far off the mark. Your brain generates as much energy as a small light bulb even when you’re sleeping. The human brain cell can hold 5 times as much information as the Encyclopedia Britannica. Or any other encyclopedia for that matter. Scientists have yet to settle on a definitive amount , but the storage capacity of the brain in electronic terms is thought to be between 3 or even 1,000 terabytes. The National Archives of Britain, containing over 900 years of history, only takes up 70 terabytes, making your brain’s memory power pretty darn impressive. Your brain uses 20% of the oxygen that enters your bloodstream. The brain only makes up about 2% of our body mass, yet consumes more oxygen than any other organ in the body, making it extremely susceptible to damage related to oxygen deprivation. So breathe deep to keep your brain happy and swimming in oxygenated cells. The brain is much more active at night than during the day. Logically, you would think that all the moving around, complicated calculations and tasks and general interaction we do on a daily basis during our working hours would take a lot more brain power than, say, lying in bed. Turns out, the opposite is true. When you turn off your brain turns on. Scientists don’t yet know why this is but you can thank the hard work of your brain while you sleep for all those pleasant dreams. Scientists say the higher your I.Q. the more you dream. While this may be true, don’t take it as a sign you’re mentally lacking if you can’t recall your dreams. Most of us don’t remember many of our dreams and the average length of most dreams is only 2-3 seconds–barely long enough to register. Neurons continue to grow throughout human life. For years scientists and doctors thought that brain and neural tissue couldn’t grow or regenerate. While it doesn’t act in the same manner as tissues in many other parts of the body, neurons can and do grow throughout your life, adding a whole new dimension to the study of the brain and the illnesses that affect it. Information travels at different speeds within different types of neurons. Not all neurons are the same. There are a few different types within the body and transmission along these different kinds can be as slow as 0.5 meters/sec or as fast as 120 meters/sec. The brain itself cannot feel pain. While the brain might be the pain center when you cut your finger or burn yourself, the brain itself does not have pain receptors and cannot feel pain. That doesn’t mean your head can’t hurt. The brain is surrounded by loads of tissues, nerves and blood vessels that are plenty receptive to pain and can give you a pounding headache . 80% of the brain is water. Your brain isn’t the firm, gray mass you’ve seen on TV. Living brain tissue is a squishy, pink and jelly-like organ thanks to the loads of blood and high water content of the tissue. So the next time you’re feeling dehydrated get a drink to keep your brain hydrated. Hair and Nails While they’re not a living part of your body, most people spend a good amount of time caring for their hair and nails. The next time you’re heading in for a haircut or manicure, think of these facts. Facial hair grows faster than any other hair on the body. If you’ve ever had a covering of stubble on your face as you’re clocking out at 5 o’clock you’re probably pretty familiar with this. In fact, if the average man never shaved his beard it would grow to over 30 feet during his lifetime, longer than a killer whale. Every day the average person loses 60-100 strands of hair. Unless you’re already bald, chances are good that you’re shedding pretty heavily on a daily basis. Your hair loss will vary in accordance with the season, pregnancy, illness, diet and age. Women’s hair is about half the diameter of men’s hair. While it might sound strange, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that men’s hair should be coarser than that of women. Hair diameter also varies on average between races, making hair plugs on some men look especially obvious. One human hair can support 3.5 ounces. That’s about the weight of two full size candy bars, and with hundreds of thousands of hairs on the human head, makes the tale of Rapunzel much more plausible. The fastest growing nail is on the middle finger. And the nail on the middle finger of your dominant hand will grow the fastest of all. Why is not entirely known, but nail growth is related to the length of the finger, with the longest fingers growing nails the fastest and shortest the slowest. There are as many hairs per square inch on your body as a chimpanzee. Humans are not quite the naked apes that we’re made out to be. We have lots of hair, but on most of us it’s not obvious as a majority of the hairs are too fine or light to be seen. Blondes have more hair. They’re said to have more fun, and they definitely have more hair. Hair color determines how dense the hair on your head is. The average human has 100,000 hair follicles, each of which is capable of producing 20 individual hairs during a person’s lifetime. Blondes average 146,000 follicles while people with black hair tend to have about 110,000 follicles. Those with brown hair fit the average with 100,000 follicles and redheads have the least dense hair, with about 86,000 follicles. Fingernails grow nearly 4 times faster than toenails. If you notice that you’re trimming your fingernails much more frequently than your toenails you’re not just imagining it. The nails that get the most exposure and are used most frequently grow the fastest. On average, nails on both the toes and fingers grow about one-tenth of an inch each month. The lifespan of a human hair is 3 to 7 years on average. While you quite a few hairs each day, your hairs actually have a pretty long life providing they aren’t subject to any trauma. Your hairs will likely get to see several different haircuts, styles, and even possibly decades before they fall out on their own. You must lose over 50% of your scalp hairs before it is apparent to anyone. You lose hundreds of hairs a day but you’ll have to lose a lot more before you or anyone else will notice. Half of the hairs on your pretty little head will have to disappear before your impending baldness will become obvious to all those around you. Human hair is virtually indestructible. Aside from it’s flammability, human hair decays at such a slow rate that it is practically non-disintegrative. If you’ve ever wondered how your hair clogs up your pipes so quick consider this: hair cannot be destroyed by cold, change of climate, water, or other natural forces and it is resistant to many kinds of acids and corrosive chemicals. Internal Organs Though we may not give them much thought unless they’re bothering us, our internal organs are what allow us to go on eating, breathing and walking around. Here are some things to consider the next time you hear your stomach growl. The largest internal organ is the small intestine. Despite being called the smaller of the two intestines, your small intestine is actually four times as long as the average adult is tall. If it weren’t looped back and forth upon itself it wouldn’t fit inside the abdominal cavity. The human heart creates enough pressure to squirt blood 30 feet. No wonder you can feel your heartbeat so easily. Pumping blood through your body quickly and efficiently takes quite a bit of pressure resulting in the strong contractions of the heart and the thick walls of the ventricles which push blood to the body. The acid in your stomach is strong enough to dissolve razorblades. While you certainly shouldn’t test the fortitude of your stomach by eating a razorblade or any other metal object for that matter, the acids that digest the food you eat aren’t to be taken lightly. Hydrochloric acid, the type found in your stomach, is not only good at dissolving the pizza you had for dinner but can also eat through many types of metal. The human body is estimated to have 60,000 miles of blood vessels. To put that in perspective, the distance around the earth is about 25,000 miles, making the distance your blood vessels could travel if laid end to end more than two times around the earth. To be continued... Source: icantseeyou.typepad.com


Note: The information on this Web site is provided as general health guidelines and may not be applicable to your particular health condition. Your individual health status and any required medical treatments can only be properly addressed by a professional healthcare provider of your choice. Remember: There is no adequate substitution for a personal consultation with your physician. Neither BPF Specialty Hospital, or any of their affiliates, nor any contributors shall have any liability for the content or any errors or omissions in the information provided by this Web site.