A herniated disc is a painful experience.
The pain comes from suppressed nerves because the “jelly” from the disk leaks out. In the human body, there are no free spaces suitable for this type of accidents so the closest nerve pinches. That’s why people who have herniated disk try as soon as possible to get rid of the pain. The procedure is called Microdiscectomy – an experienced orthopaedic surgeon removes some small part from the disk (enough to reduce the pressure on the nerve). Unfortunately, more than 10% of people who had once herniated disk experience recurrence. There are no limits how long it will be before occurring again. Some people report that the pain is back after less than a year while others – after 20 years. In cases like this, surgeons repeat the Microdiscectomy.
However, this procedure can’t be done more than 2 or 3 times because the spine becomes unstable. Imagine how all disks in the spine form a tower and if one of them is completely ruined – the tower fall down. Actually, biologically it is not possible the spine to fall down, but it might become unstable. The Microdiscectomy can remove only up to 30% of the disk. If a patient needs a bigger part to be removed then the surgeon undergoes a spinal fusion. This is a surgery, which combines bones together and they heal like one bone. Of course, this surgery completely immobilizes these disks and the patient is limited in his movements. Sounds scary and it actually is. That’s why we dig deeper into this subject and find how to prevent herniated disc recurrence and what are risk factors.
What are risk factors and who are people who are predisposed to herniated disc recurrence?
We have summed up the results from a few studies, and they show that people between 40 and 60 are under the highest risk of recurrence. Younger people, under 40, and elder, over 60, have a bigger chance to have only one microdiscectomy. There were no clear data with a significant difference so today we consider age as a not relevant factor for herniated disc recurrence.
Some specialists claim that men suffer more often from back pain and herniated disks than women. Unfortunately, studies don’t show such a regularity. However, slightly higher percentage shows male predisposition in Asia and USA than Europe but the difference is negligibly small.
Body Mass Index as a factor
Although higher body mass index is responsible for many health problems, recurrence of a herniated disk is not one of them. A few studies in this area shows there is no matter if the BMI is higher or lower.
Cigarettes and Diabetes
Smoking could be a predisposition to lung cancer and more than 10 other diseases but people still do it. A serious study shows that people who smoke are with higher probability to have herniated disk more than once. People who smoke are in the risk group. They could have cardiopulmonary complications, slower wound healing, increase coughing and intervertebral pressure.
People with diabetes are also part of the risk group. There is a link between damaged spinal disks and abnormally high levels of glucose.
Side and level of first herniated disk
Some people truly believe if the herniated disk was just slightly slipped it will not repeat in future again. A control group shows that there is no matter how bad was the first time. The same is valid for the side of the spine.
Lack of exercise
Every single study in this area shows that people who don’t have regular exercises are at higher risk. If one man is working out twice every week and walk enough, he will have enough muscles to carry his body weight. Working out and stretching has the ability to free the body from the pressure including the pressure in the spine. Straining your back with backpacks and too much body weight could be a problem but your muscles are strong – it won’t be so big problem. The idea is that the pressure is changing its focus from the spinal disks to muscles. This way spinal disks don’t leak into nerves. Every sports programme is recommended including cardio, yoga and Pilates. All of them help the body to be strong and stable. Flexibility comes from stretching so at the end of every set patients should stretch a little.
How to prevent herniated disc recurrence
First and most important thing is to truly believe that changing your habits will save you from second or third Microdiscectomy. You should work out regularly. Stretch enough. Stop smoking and drinking alcohol because they will limit the quantity of oxygen that reaches your cells. Walking is another thing that people should do every day. If you have to go to the store just go on foot. As we describe above age, gender and body mass index are not significant factors. Diabetes is a significant one, though. Avoiding diabetes is a complex topic, but we will limit ourselves with the recommendation to eat as healthy as possible. Nutrition is responsible for body processes, level of energy and one hundred other things. Preventing herniated disc recurrence is possible and all you have to do is to follow some rules.