Slipped Disk, Ruptured Disk, Ruptured Nucleus Pulposis, Sciatica. A ruptured or slipped disk between the vertebrae, causes pain in the back and then down one or both legs. It is considered a back difficulty, but results in leg pain, called sciatica, more than 75 percent of the time.
Each disk between the vertebrae is liquid in its center and firm about its periphery. When forced together, the liquid center of the disk may burst its way out through a rent in its rim, usually directly backward. The bursting putty-like substance presses against the spinal cord and nerves to create pain in our backs, and lower legs. When we cough, sneeze or exert ourselves, the pressure pushes the disk substance harder against the spinal nerve to cause immediate pain in the legs. If this is continued over a long period, the nerve itself becomes sore and sensitive, so that it cannot stretch in walking as it normally should, and the sciatica sufferer must find relief by walking on his toes with knees slightly bent. This relaxes the sciatic nerve; and permits walking with less pain. Sometimes a disk may create severe back pain without pressure on any leg nerves, and walking is no problem.
Most disk troubles occur in the lower part of the back. They do not endanger life and often heal with lengthy horizontal bed rest. When they produce pain which disables a person for too long a period, surgical removal of the ruptured disk can effect complete and welcome relief. The gratifying results from these operations makes those who have already had them the champions of this type of surgery.
Strains and Sprains. A back strain is an injury caused by overstretching or over-working the ligaments and muscles beyond their normal limits. A sprain, however, denotes actual tearing of muscles or ligaments within the back. Thus, back pain on one side, due to bumpy beds, too much gardening, or unusual exercise, most often means back strain and is a common occurrence often relieved by warm baths. But following an automobile accident or a fall downstairs, actual bleeding within the muscles implies that some tissue most certainly has been torn apart and that a sprain has been suffered. However, after these very severe accidents, we most often have a combination of injuries besides a strain, including fractures, dislocations, lacerations and frequently considerable bleeding. Such difficulties obviously require the services of the physician.