There are various serious complications that can be instigated by a ruptured disc or herniation. A herniated disc develops when a part of a spinal disc is forced out through the fibrous outer ring of the disc as well as pressing on the surrounding spinal nerves in the spinal cord. In most cases of ruptured discs, they typically occur in the low back and neck region.
Chronic back pain
A common complication of a ruptured disc is chronic back or neck pain. As the intervertebral discs are subjected to constant pressure, they eventually degenerate while the tissue encasing them starts to weaken and ruptures. The center of the disc can bulge into the spinal canal which is the small hole in which the spinal nerve roots exit.
The ruptured disc can lead to chronic pain on the spine and extremity that often entails intervention by a healthcare professional. In case the ruptured disc takes place in the neck, lingering neck pain will manifest along with arm pain on a single side of the body.
If the ruptured disc is at the lower back, it can lead to chronic low back pain accompanied by leg pain on one side of the body. Always bear in mind that ruptured discs rarely occur in the thoracic spine but can still result to significant pain. By enrolling in a first aid class, you can learn how to manage the back or neck pain.
Weakness or loss of sensation
The loss of sensation or muscular weakness in the extremities typically occur with ruptured discs that causes extensive nerve root irritation or compression of the spinal nerve root.
The radiculopathy pain radiates to one of the extremities, either the arm or leg in the area of the affected nerve. The pain is usually sharp or feels similar to an electric shock. Take note that radiculopathy pain can be accompanied by the pins and needles sensation or full numbness along with muscular weakness in one of the extremities when engaging in certain activities. Radiculopathy is not a condition but a complication of a ruptured disc in the low back or neck. In some circumstances, if there is reduced reflexes and progressive muscle weakness, the affected spinal nerve root requires decompression to relieve the symptoms.
Loss of bladder and bowel function
It is important to note that the loss of bladder and bowel function is a serious complication of a ruptured disc and considered as a medical emergency. Certain disorders and injuries such as a ruptured disc can add pressure on the spinal cord, thus disrupting the function of the spinal cord. Oftentimes, a ruptured disc in the lower back compresses on the cauda equina which causes symptoms such as numbness of the groin, diminished sexual response, urine retention, loss of bladder and bowel function and loss of ankle reflexes. Those who have these symptoms need immediate medical care and even surgery in order to relieve the compression.