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Does a Herniated Disc Mean the End of Your Career?


5.19 - Is-a-Herniated-Disc-Career-Ending

A herniated disc is a common injury that can cause immense pain and discomfort. It occurs when a spinal disc, the rubbery cushion that sits between vertebrae, becomes damaged or ruptured, causing the inner gel-like substance to protrude outward. This can press against nearby nerves and result in symptoms such as numbness, tingling, weakness, and pain in the back, neck, arms, or legs. The severity of the symptoms can vary, depending on the extent and location of the herniation.

One common concern for people with herniated discs is whether it can end their careers. This is a valid worry, as many jobs require physical labor, repetitive movements, or prolonged sitting or standing, which can exacerbate the symptoms of a herniated disc. However, the answer is not always straightforward. This article discusses the factors related to whether a herniated disc is a career-ending condition.

Severity of the Herniation

The severity of the herniation is one of the most crucial factors that determine whether it can end a career or not. In mild cases, where the herniation is small and not pressing on any nerves, the symptoms may be minimal or absent altogether. Such cases can often be managed with rest, physical therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes, allowing the affected patient to resume his or her job after recovering.

On the other hand, in severe cases where the herniation is large, pressing on nerves, or causing significant pain and disability, the patient may need surgery or other interventions to alleviate the symptoms. In such cases, the patient may need to take a break from work or switch to a less physically demanding job, at least temporarily.

Job Requirements

Another factor that influences whether a herniated disc can end a career is the nature of the job itself. Jobs that involve heavy lifting, bending, twisting, or repetitive motions can put a significant strain on the back and increase the risk of aggravating a herniated disc. Examples of people with these kinds of jobs include construction workers, factory workers, nurses, landscapers, and mechanics.

In contrast, jobs that involve sitting for prolonged periods, such as office jobs or occupations that involve a lot of driving, can also be problematic for people with herniated discs, as they can put pressure on the lower back and worsen the symptoms. Therefore, it is important to follow some ergonomic tips to prevent or minimize discomfort at work, such as:

  • Adjusting the height and position of your chair, desk, keyboard, mouse, and monitor
  • Using a lumbar support pillow or cushion to maintain proper posture
  • Taking frequent breaks to stand up, stretch, and walk around
  • Avoiding lifting, twisting, or bending movements that can strain the spine
  • Asking for help or using assistive devices when handling heavy or bulky objects

Some jobs may require more modifications or accommodations to allow a person to continue working with a herniated disc. For example, the employee may need to reduce or change some duties, work part-time or remotely, use adaptive equipment, or request flexible hours. These options may depend on the employer's policies and willingness to cooperate. In some cases, the patient may need to consider changing careers or applying for disability benefits if working becomes impossible or unsafe.

Overall Health and Fitness

The overall health and fitness of the patient can also play a role in determining whether a herniated disc can end his or her career. People who are overweight, sedentary, or have weak core muscles are more susceptible to back pain and injury, including herniated discs. Similarly, people who smoke, have poor posture, or engage in high-impact sports or activities that strain the back may also be at risk.

In contrast, people who maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, and have good posture and body mechanics can reduce their risk of developing herniated discs or worsening existing ones. They may also have a better chance of managing their symptoms and returning to work without complications.

Treatment Options and Prognosis

Finally, the treatment options and prognosis for a herniated disc can also impact a patient's ability to continue his or her career. In some cases, conservative treatments such as rest, physical therapy, medication, lower back pain exercises, or chiropractic care may be sufficient to relieve the symptoms and allow the person to return to work.

Some people may need surgery to remove or repair their herniated discs if conservative treatments fail or if they have severe or progressive symptoms, such as nerve damage, bladder or bowel dysfunction, or loss of muscle strength. Surgery can provide faster and more lasting relief for some people, but it also carries some risks and complications. Recovery from surgery can vary from a few weeks to a few months.

If you have a herniated disc that is not responding to conservative treatment, a discectomy or less invasive microdiscectomy may be discussed and potentially recommended. Although this is generally a very successful procedure, having a large hole in the outer ring of the disc more than doubles the risk of needing another operation. A new treatment, Barricaid, is a bone-anchored device that closes this hole, and 95 percent of Barricaid patients did not undergo a reoperation due to reherniation in a 2-year study timeframe. This treatment is done immediately following the discectomy—during the same operation—and does not require any additional incisions or time in the hospital.

If you have any questions about the Barricaid treatment or how to get access to Barricaid, you may ask your doctor or contact us at 844-288-7474.

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