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Understanding the Differences Between a Torn Muscle and a Slipped Disc

Back pain is extremely common and can be blamed on a number of potential causes, including accident, injury, a spinal condition or muscle strain. In fact, muscle strains in the lower back are the most common causes of low back pain. Houston back surgeon Dr. Vivek Kushwaha gives his opinion about this matter.

A herniated disc, sometimes referred to as a “slipped disc,” typically occurs due to traumatic injury to the spine that causes a tear in the outer, fibrous ring of the intervertebral disc, allowing the soft, middle portion of the disc to bulge out. The protruding disc can put pressure on surrounding nerves, causing pain and other symptoms, including:

  • Weakness, numbness or tingling in the legs or arms
  • Shooting pain that radiates into the limbs
  • Pain when straightening the spine
  • Pain that does not subside
  • Nerve impairment resulting in bladder or bowel problems following the injury

A muscle strain is an overstretched or torn muscle that can occur from gradual use over time or from a sudden injury. The muscle strain causes inflammation in the soft tissues of the back, causing pain and/or muscle spasms. Although a muscle strain will heal with time, it can be debilitating and result in low back stiffness, weakness, restricted range of motion, inability to maintain normal posture and pain that typically lasts about two weeks.

Torn muscles in the back can easily be mistaken for something worse and have landed many patients in their local emergency room, although a muscle strain rarely requires medical intervention or back surgery from a Houston back surgeon. One spine condition that may be mistaken for muscle strain is a herniated disc, which is also a common back injury and often does require surgical intervention.

If you have back pain that persists for longer than two weeks, it may be time to consult with your doctor or a Houston back surgeon who can properly diagnose the cause of your pain and recommend the best course of treatment. If it is determined that your pain is caused by a torn muscle or sprain, bed rest and anti-inflammatory medications may be suggested. If you have a herniated disc, it may require back surgery. Lumbar discectomy and lumbar spinal fusion are two surgical procedures commonly used to treat a herniated disc in the spine.

During a lumbar discectomy, the herniated portion of the disc is removed. The goal of this procedure is to decrease pain and allow for better movement and function. Lumbar spinal fusion is used to combine two or more vertebrae in an effort to eliminate pain caused by the herniated disc.

Are you experiencing spine pain and unsure if it is caused by a torn muscle or herniated disc? Contact Houston back surgeon Dr. Vivek Kushwaha today for diagnosis and treatment of your back pain.

About Vivek Kushwaha

Vivek P. Kushwaha attended the University of Texas at Austin where he earned his B.A. from the College of Natural Sciences. He then earned his medical degree from the University of Texas Medical School at San Antonio, Texas.

Make an appointment with Dr. Kushwaha for diagnosis and treatment. Make An Appointment