Don’t let herniated discs send shivers down your spine. Inside every one of us, is a skeleton comprised of individual bones, or vertebrae. Between each vertebra lies a disk – or rubbery pad designed to protect, cushion, and absorb shock as the vertebrae flex or bend.1
In order to understand their limitations, you must first comprehend disk anatomy. Each is comprised of an inner nucleus – a gel-like substance, and the outer annulus, a durable ring of cartilage. While hardy, sometimes the outer layer will rupture, allowing nucleus “jelly” to escape.2 This can result in uncomfortable symptoms, among them – severe pain out of the blue, numbness or tingling sensations (typically in the leg), or frailty. In some cases, however, there is no symptom at all.
General wear-and-tear or aging are the most common causes of disk herniation; after the age of 18, our spinal disks begin to lose H20 content, and consequently become brittle and fragile. In the long run, disk degeneration can result in ruptures. Carrying around excess weight and physically demanding occupations may also place additional stress on the lower back. And in some especially unfortunate cases, people may be genetically predisposed to this sort of condition.
The silver lining, however, is that there are many modes of treating herniated discs. A reputable doctor will typically attempt conservative methods first – only looking to surgery as a last resort. There’s no “magic bullet” for a herniated disc; often, physicians will utilize several treatments in tandem to discover what works best. In many cases, some simple R&R and a pain relief medicine will do the trick. If pain is mild to moderate, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicine may be helpful in reducing swelling and pain; in more dire cases, epidural steroid injections may be administered. Thanks to the advances with X-ray and ultrasound guided technology, this method is successful in delivering targeted relief.
Facilities such as Watauga Orthopaedics will craft specialized physical therapy treatment plans based on your unique needs. Each of their exercise programs are designed to promote healing and help you conquer your pain. Pelvic contraction, ice and heat therapy, electrical muscle stimulation, and stretching exercises have all proven to be advantageous.
While you may assume exercise is off the table following a herniated disc, it’s actually quite important to fortify your core. Bedrest is not recommended; in fact, clinical guidelines from the American College of Physicians advise against it. Rather than fall out of your athletic routine, strengthen your abdominals and obliques with a Pilates, yoga, or martial arts regimen; they’re especially beneficial, as these sports focus on slow, controlled movements. However, it is advised to avoid any extreme exertion, i.e. lifting heavy weights overhead.
In a few severe cases, surgery will be required. If you’ve attempted non-invasive methods for a while with no relief, your physician may recommend Lumbar M
If debilitating back pain is hindering your daily life, it’s time that you consider your options. The talented and nurturing team at Watauga Orthopaedics have nearly 70 years of combined experience in the field of orthopedic care. They offer solutions to all of your sports medicine and physical therapy needs, and will work with you to develop a course of treatment to alleviate herniated disc pain. To learn more, or to schedule an appointment, call (423) 282-9011.
1The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
5American Association of Neurological Surgeons