You and a Herniated Disc
Keeping your spine in good shape is important. One common problem that could affect it is a herniated disc, sometimes called a slipped or ruptured disc which can cause sciatica. This article will break down what a herniated disc is, how to know if you have one, why it happens, how it's diagnosed, and what can be done about it if you live here in Canberra.
What's a Herniated Disc?
A herniated disc occurs when the squishy material inside the discs of your spine pokes out through a crack in the harder outside part. These discs are like cushions between the bones of your spine, called vertebrae.
Signs of a Herniated Disc:
Some people with a herniated disc might not feel any different, while others could have a lot of discomfort. How bad the discomfort is depends on where the herniated disc is on your spine. The lower back and the neck are the most common places.
Why Does a Herniated Disc Happen?
Herniated discs often happen because of disc degeneration, a normal process that takes place as we get older. As we age, the spinal discs lose water, making them less bendy and more likely to tear or rupture with even a small twist or strain. Other things like your genes, your job, and what you do in your spare time can also up your chances of getting a herniated disc.
How is a Herniated Disc Diagnosed?
To figure out if you have a herniated disc, your doctor will start with a physical check. They'll test your nerve function, muscle strength, and see if moving or touching the area that hurts causes pain. MRI scans: This test uses powerful magnets and radio waves to take detailed pictures of the inside of your body. It's the best way to see if you have a herniated disc.
This can be really bad in the bottom, thigh, and calf (sciatica) if the herniated disc is in the lower back, and in the arm and shoulder if it's in the neck.
Numbness and Tingling:
You might feel these sensations in the parts of your body connected to the nerves affected.
The muscles linked to the affected nerves might get weaker, making it hard to hold or lift things.
Role of Exercise Physiology and Remedial Massage:
In managing a herniated disc, Exercise Physiology and Remedial Massage play significant roles.
Exercise physiologists are experts in understanding and applying exercise principles to promote healing and reduce pain. Sam and I develop tailored exercise programs that focus on strengthening your core, improving flexibility, and maintaining spinal health.
These exercises not only alleviate symptoms but also help prevent future occurrences of a herniated disc.
On the other hand, remedial massage therapists specialise in massage techniques that target pain and tension in the body.
For herniated discs, they use specific techniques to relax tightened muscles in the affected area, reducing pressure on the herniated disc and relieving pain.
It's important to remember that a remedial massage should be conducted by a qualified therapist such as myself (Daniel O'Sullivan) to ensure safety and effectiveness.
Together, exercise physiology and remedial massage offer a comprehensive approach to managing herniated disc symptoms and promoting long-term spinal health.
However, these treatments should always be undertaken with the advice of a healthcare professional to ensure they're appropriate for the individual's condition and overall health.
What's done about a herniated disc depends on how bad the symptoms are and how much the disc has shifted. Here's what might be done:
Conservative treatments: Many people get better with time using treatments like pain meds you can buy without a prescription, physical therapy, changing how they live, heat or cold therapy, and certain exercises.
Medications: Depending on how bad it is, your doctor might prescribe strong painkillers, nerve pain medicines, or muscle relaxers.
Epidural injections: In some cases, shots of cortisone around the spinal nerves might be given.
Surgery: If other treatments don't work or symptoms get worse, surgery might be needed. Usually, only a small part of the disc is taken out to help with symptoms.
Living with a Herniated Disc: A herniated disc might make some activities harder, but most people can still be active. Regular exercise, sitting and standing correctly, and lifting and bending the right way can help control symptoms and stop more disc damage.