Could Your Back Pain Be Caused By A Herniated Disc?
Do you sometimes feel pain like an electric shock radiating from your lower back down to your legs? Do you experience muscle weakness or numbness in your arms or legs?
If so, be sure to schedule a free consultation with our office for a proper diagnosis. Strange neck pains, back pains, or extremity symptoms can indicate a variety of potential problems – including one or more herniated discs.
Symptoms may also include pain on one side of the body, pain that radiates to the arms or legs, aching, burning sensations in the affected area, and pain with certain movements.
If you are experiencing any of those symptoms, you just may have a herniated disc. Fortunately, physical therapy can help relieve your herniated disc symptoms and help you move comfortably once again.
Herniated discs, defined
The vertebrae that comprise the spine are cushioned by discs. These discs are flat and round with an outer layer called the annulus, which surrounds a gel-like material called the nucleus. Discs are located in between each of the vertebrae in the spinal column. They act as shock absorbers.
Also referred to as a ruptured or bulged disc, a herniated disc occurs when the disc nucleus is moved out of the annulus and into the spinal canal. It’s important to note that the spinal canal has limited space, and this displacement often produces pain.
A herniated disc can happen anywhere in the spine, including the lower back and cervical spine areas. The area of pain often depends on which area of the spine that the herniated disc occurs in.
Why did my herniated disc develop?
Injury or strain can be the cause of a herniated disc. Sometimes, a predisposition for a herniated disc may exist in families.
In addition, the natural process of aging may be the culprit for a herniated disc. As one ages, the disc material degenerates naturally, and ligaments may tend to weaken. When this occurs, even a minor twisting motion can result in a herniated disc.
The symptoms of a herniated disc vary depending on the size of the herniated and where it’s located. If the disc isn’t compressing a nerve, there may be no pain.
If it is compressing a nerve, pain, weakness and numbness may travel to the part of the body that the nerve is pressing on. Often, there is lower back pain.
Sciatica may occur in the lower lumbar spine. This is when there’s pressure on the sciatic nerve. Sciatica can cause burning, pain and numbness that radiates from the buttocks, down the leg and the foot. It’s often a very sharp pain that may occur when sitting, walking or standing.
If a herniated disc occurs in the neck area, pain can result in the neck and between the shoulder blades. This pain may radiate down the arm and to the fingers.
Physical therapy treatments for herniated discs
A physician may recommend physical therapy. A physical therapist will conduct an in-depth evaluation and outline specific treatment for patients with herniated discs.
In addition to analyzing your symptoms and performing various tests and measures, a physical therapist can help you determine if you have a herniated disc by assessing your medical history and lifestyle.
We’ll look for risk factors known to be linked to herniated discs, including:
- Acute trauma, e.g., auto accident or fall
- Male gender
- Age between 30 and 50
- Frequent bending, heavy lifting, or twisting
- Physically demanding occupation
Once the cause of your pain is clear, an individualized treatment plan will be created for you, based on your specific needs.
This typically includes a series of stretches and exercises aimed at relieving your pain, improving your function, and promoting the natural healing process of your body. Additional treatments may be added as your physical therapist deems fit. These include:
- Pelvic traction
- Education on posture and lifting mechanics
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
- Class IV laser therapy
- Ice and heat therapies
- Manual therapy
According to research, physical therapy often plays a big role in herniated disc recovery. Physical therapy entails a holistic approach with both active and passive treatments.
Not only is pain relief a result of physical therapy, but a physical therapist will teach patients how to prevent further injury.
Ready to find relief?
Call Focus Physical Therapy to schedule an appointment to discover how we can help reduce or alleviate your pain today.