The spine is an incredibly complex part of the body – it is comprised of 24 bones, and 5 of those are located within the lower back. There are also several nerves and intervertebral discs that make up the spine. Because of the complexities, however, it is possible for certain things to go wrong.
Sometimes the jelly-like nucleus of the intervertebral discs can “herniate,” or protrude. This occurs when the cell wall is not strong enough to contain the nucleus, so it is able to push through the outer ring and create a bulge. Herniated discs occur along the spine, and they are most often found in the lower back.
In most cases, the first sign of a herniated disc will be lower back pain. Additional symptoms may include shooting pains, weakness, or numbness in the legs, and in some severe cases, people have reported losing bladder control. With herniated discs, the pain may range from moderate to severe. If you believe you may be experiencing the symptoms of herniated discs, don’t hesitate to contact Focus Physical Therapy today to find out how our services can help!
Diagnosing herniated discs:
If you believe you may be suffering from a herniated disc, it is important to consult your primary care physician first. Your doctor will perform a physical exam to assess muscle strength and sensation to see if your disc is herniated, and he or she may also conduct a neurological exam.
If your doctor believes your disc is herniated, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan may be done to confirm the diagnosis. From this scan, your doctor will be able to clearly see if there is a herniated disc in the lower back region. If the disc is putting pressure on the spine, it can be detected. Your doctor will then provide you with a treatment plan, and will likely recommend physical therapy for pain relief.
How did my herniated disc develop?
Herniated discs are typically associated with aging, as the spine begins to wear down and become more brittle. This is known as “disc degeneration.” The discs in the spine contain a high water content when we’re young, but as we age that water content gradually decreases. This causes the discs to shrink. Therefore, the older we get, the more prone we become to disc degeneration. Other risk factors that can make you more prone to herniated discs include:
- Being between the ages of 20-50.
- Being overweight.
- Being male.
- Engaging in a sedentary lifestyle.
- Engaging in improper lifting techniques.
- Driving frequently.
Finding help for your herniated disc:
After your initial evaluation, your physical therapist will design a treatment plan based on the nature of your condition, and your corresponding needs. Treatment plans will begin with passive therapy methods, including ice and heat therapies, manual therapy, traction, hydrotherapy, ultrasound, or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS).
After your passive therapies are complete and your pain has been managed, you will begin the active therapy portion of your treatment plan. This will include stretching and flexibility exercises to increase range of motion, core exercises to strengthen your back, and any additional muscle strengthening exercises that your physical therapist deems fit. Your physical therapist will also provide you with education for maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle, in order to avoid further pain or injury in the future.
Physical therapy is a proven and effective method of treatment for herniated discs. It is a non-invasive, natural, and safe way to treat your pain, without the need for harmful drugs or surgical intervention. If you have been suffering from back pain and you think it may be the result of a herniated disc, contact our Newhall, CA office today to schedule your consultation. We will help you get started on the path toward pain relief and reclaiming your life!