Pain: the nerve of it

  • Fitness
  • Saturday, 06 Sep 2014

Filename : shutterstock_34.9f408153138.original.jpg - To go with "Paracetamol no better than placebo in low-back pain: study" (published on 2014-07-24 10:59:05)

Though a compressed nerve due to a slipped intervertebral disc resulted in excruciating pain for a young lady, she has adjusted really well with a proper pain management regime.

HAVING a slipped disc does not mean living with pain forever or undergoing a complete life overhaul.

The key is learning to manage it.

At only 25 years of age and with her whole life ahead of her, being diagnosed with a slipped disc was not part of Aini’s (name changed to protect privacy) plans.

Recently married and with a promising career with a Fortune 500 company, Aini and her family didn’t react too well to the news; they were worried about how she would cope with the diagnosis and lead a normal life.

However, she was assured by her doctor that with proper information and education, her condition would be manageable.

A slipped disc, also known as a prolapsed intervertebral disc or herniated disc, occurs when one of the discs in the spine ruptures.

A disc prolapse can happen at any part of the spine, and when it occurs, pressure is exerted on the nerve closest to it.

The lower back (lumbar region) is the most common area for slipped discs.

The pressure exerted on the lumbar nerve is what causes severe pain and a tingling sensation, which often radiates or “shoots” down to the calf and foot.

In Aini’s case, her pain started mid-March, just three months after her wedding.

The pain was localised to the right side of her lower back, but she didn’t think much of it and figured the pain would soon pass.

But as the days went by, the pain worsened progressively. Her muscles became tense, causing her to lean to her right side, and she was unable to stand up straight.

She started to feel pain from her back travelling down to her right calf.

Often, the pain was excruciating and kept her awake at night.

She described it as “someone taking a knife and stabbing me over and over again in my legs. It drove me crazy, and I couldn’t sleep. Exhausted and drained from the pain, I couldn’t go to work”.

The unbearable pain left her with no choice but to finally consult a doctor.

She visited doctors at two different clinics and both provided the same diagnosis; that it was nothing more than regular back pain caused by lifting heavy items.

Both doctors prescribed painkillers, which didn’t ease her suffering.

When she was finally referred to a specialist in mid-April, she was diagnosed as having lumbar disc prolapse.

Even though Aini was mentally prepared for surgery, her doctor assured her that it was not necessary at this stage, as proper medication would be sufficient to treat her nerve pain.

“When I was first diagnosed with lumbar disc prolapse, I was told that I had to change everything in my life, from my car to the chair I sit on at work.

“I started panicking and thought of all the adjustments that I would have to make in my life, but with my doctor’s guidance on pain management, my family and I gained a more positive outlook, and in the end, I only had to make a few minor changes to my lifestyle.

“Part of my pain management regime included being aware of how long I sit – I make it a point to take a walk around the office every hour so I do not remain seated for too long,” she said.

However, Aini had another concern. Would her new condition affect her chances of getting pregnant?

According to her doctor, it is not advisable for her to get pregnant while on medication. However, her condition is not permanent, nerve pain from the slipped disc will eventually go away and then, she can fulfil her wish.

One major misconception about this medical condition is that those suffering from it should take extra precautions and limit their physical activities.

However, with proper medication and light exercises, patients can go about their daily routine without any problems.

Another key fact about lumbar disc prolapse is that this condition is not permanent and the outlook is positive.

With the correct medications to help reduce pain, as well as lifestyle adjustments, patients are able to get back to their normal level of activities as soon as possible and recover eventually.

Lumbar disc prolapse is just one of the many causes of nerve pain; other causes include shingles, diabetes, fracture, stroke, cancer and HIV.

Nerve pain is caused by injury to the nerves, spinal cord or brain.

There are countless nerves in the body that make up the nervous system.

They are like a series of electrical wires connecting your brain and spinal cord to the rest of your body.

Is there any way to prevent a slipped disc? Aini’s doctor advises that we should be careful with the way we carry heavy items.

“Don’t over exert yourself, exercise regularly and sit up straight. Good posture is very important.”

Symptoms of a slipped disc include:

·Pain (shooting, burning, electric shock-like) and tingling sensation, most commonly on one side of the limb.

·Pain that extends to the arms and/or legs.

·Pain that worsens at night.

·Pain that worsens after standing or sitting.

·Pain when walking short distances.

·Unexplained muscle weakness.

In Aini’s case, her suffering was prolonged because she did not seek timely treatment, and when she did, she was initially misdiagnosed.

A great tip is to keep a pain diary, noting down pertinent facts such as when the pain started, the nature and severity of the pain, any aggravating or relieving factors, etc. All these can help your doctor with diagnosis and treatment.

For more information on nerve pain, visit

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Pain: the nerve of it


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