Backache

Updated 27 June 2014

Neck, arm, back and leg pain

Have you had the pain for less than four weeks? It’s probably a herniated disc pressing against a nerve.

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What should you do about the pain? And if you need an op, what are the avAilable procedures? We've put together a guide to help you determine what could work for you.
BY BETINA LOUW AND THE HEALTH24 TEAM for YOU Pulse magazine

You have neck pain with accompanying arm pain or back pain with accompanying leg pain

Have you had the pain for less than four weeks?

It’s probably a herniated disc pressing against a nerve. Try bed rest (for no longer than three days), painkillers (such as Panado, Brufen or Voltaren), stretches and either physiotherapy or a visit to a chiropractor. If the pain is bad or doesn’t improve in four weeks you must see a doctor.

A scan would then be required to rule out a prolapsed disc or a displaced vertebra pressing on a nerve. After one herniated disc episode there’s a 20 per cent chance of surgery, after a second a 50 per cent chance and after a third it’s 67 per cent.

If you need an operation it will probably be to remove the part of the disc that’s pressing against the nerve. This is known as a discectomy. It’s no longer necessary to remove part of a vertebra to gain access to the disc.

PROCEDURE PATIENT'S AVERAGE AGE DURATION RECOVERY TIME SUCCESS RATE TOTAL COST
DISCECTOMY

The part of the disc pressing on a nerve is removed.

30-60 years 1 hour 4 weeks 85% R25 000

(This is an edited version of a story that originally appeared in YOU Pulse / Huisgenoot-POLS magazine, Autumn 2008. Buy the latest copy, on newsstands now, for more fascinating stories from the world of health and wellness.)

 

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Susan qualified as a Physiotherapist in 1990, and completed her master’s degree in Physiotherapy in 2013 at the University of Pretoria. She has a special interest in human biomechanics, as well as the interaction between domestic and work-related ergonomics. Read more here.

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