A certain Ms Chen, aged 39, recently sought treatment at an orthopedic clinic, saying that she had a pain in the area extending from her left buttock to her calf that had lasted for more than three weeks, and she had no idea what had caused it. She was diagnosed with a herniated disc causing severe low back pain. Hu Yu-feng, an orthopedic surgeon at the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s Taipei Hospital, said that frequent heavy lifting and sedentary office work are both risk factors for herniated discs.
Hu said that low back pain is a commonly seen condition in orthopedic clinics and that, according to research, more than 90 percent of people have suffered from it at some time in their lives. In most cases, it is caused by a bulging disc pressing on nerves. It is three times more common in men than in women, and obesity, smoking, frequent bending down to lift heavy objects, sitting for long periods in an office and carrying children are all risk factors.
Hu said that, as well as low back pain, pressure on nerves leading to pain and numbness in the lower extremities is another common symptom of disc herniation. Patients with unexplained symptoms are advised to first see if physical therapy helps. For those with severe symptoms or who see no improvement after six weeks of physical therapy, or who feel so much pain after walking a few steps that they have to stop and rest, or even suffer from urinary or bowel incontinence, it is necessary to arrange to have an MRI scan and then seek decompression surgery to relieve their symptoms.
Photo: Chou Hsiang-yun, Liberty Times 照片：自由時報周湘芸
Hu explained that decompression surgery can be performed in a minimally invasive way, with only a small piece of bone needing to be removed to draw out the intervertebral disc that is pressing on the nerves, and that patients can be discharged and go home the next day. He recommended that people should routinely maintain proper sitting and standing posture and regularly get an appropriate amount exercise to help train the core muscles, so as to avoid spinal deformation and compression.
(Translated by Julian Clegg, Taipei Times)
1. orthopedic surgeon phr.
骨科醫師 (gu3 ke1 yi1 shi1)
2. sedentary adj.
久坐的 (jiu3 zuo4 de5)
3. numbness n.
麻木 (ma2 mu4)
4. urinary adj.
泌尿 (mi4 niao4)
5. bowel n.
腸子 (chang2 zi5)
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