Developing a herniated disc as a construction worker

A herniated disc might occur due to age, genetics, poor lifestyle habits or injury. While anyone can develop this condition, construction workers are particularly prone to developing herniated, or ruptured, discs, as people in this profession tend to sustain both sudden and progressive injuries.

A herniated disc occurs when the normally tough, outer layer of a disc between vertebrae (annulus fibrosus) has weakened from dehydration and cracks or tears open, releasing the gelatinous inner material (nucleus pulposus) into the spinal canal. If the extruded disc material happens to compress the spinal cord or a nearby nerve root, sharp pain can develop at the site of compression. Additionally, symptoms of pain, spasms, cramping, tingling, weakness and numbness may radiate down the shoulders, arms, buttocks and legs, depending on the location of the damaged disc.

Causes

The discs between vertebrae act as shock absorbers for the body and allow us to maintain a high range of motion in both the lumbar (lower back) and cervical (neck) regions of the spine. Construction workers put themselves at risk each day for developing a herniated disc because one or more of the following actions or accidents can occur:

  • Falling from a tall height and landing on the feet, buttocks or flat on the back
  • Slipping and falling on wet surfaces, or tripping over holes, stakes and other materials
  • Sustaining long periods of repetitive jolting motions, which can occur when using a jackhammer or other heavy machinery
  • Bending over or lifting heavy items frequently
  • Driving construction trucks and other heavy equipment

For construction workers, the majority of additional stress and pressure is placed on their lumbar (lower) spine, which must support most of the body’s weight and movements. As a result, most construction-related back injuries occur in the lumbar region.

Treatment

A physician will typically recommend conservative, non-invasive options such as pain medication, physical therapy, transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS) or hot/cold therapy to begin herniated disc treatment. These methods are usually effective at alleviating the symptoms associated with a ruptured disc long enough for the disc to heal naturally.

For some people, the chronic pain is too great, and conservative treatments fail to provide relief. At this point, it may be time to consider the minimally invasive procedures at Laser Spine Institute. Our surgeons use advanced techniques and small incisions to treat a variety of spinal conditions without the invasive nature of traditional open spine surgery. Contact Laser Spine Institute to learn more and find out if you may be a candidate.

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