Think you might have a disc problem?

Hi everyone – however many that may be…

Suddenly I seem to be seeing a lot of people with disc injuries, ranging from relatively mild to one particularly bad case that will probably end up needing surgery.  Luckily most don’t and they get better, though progress can be slow because of its properties and position jammed in between your spine.  You can’t exactly take it out and give it a rest!

If you can identify with any of these symptoms, you might also have a disc problem, but before you get depressed, remember that many are mild and most get better!

Tingling, pain or numbness running down the arm, the outside back of the leg, or in the toes; central low back pain worse with long periods of sitting or standing; a long period of discomfort (more than an hour) in the morning on waking; leaning to one side to avoid pain; pain coughing, sneezing or bending over.

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If any of that sounds like you, then you may find some of these tips helpful

  • Get treatment!  Now, okay, I would say that, wouldn’t I?  But not without good reason.  Treatment can help because you need as much movement and flexibility in othe parts of the spine so that as little stress and pressure goes on the part with the damage.  Yes, I know a lot of physical problems do get better by themselves…. eventually.  But  eventually can be a longtime.  The “She’ll be right” attitude is admirable, but why chance a needless extension of pain?
  • Don’t allow anyone to manipulate (i.e. ‘click’) your spine where the damaged disc is.  I’ve heard of cases where that’s been done because the over confident therapist thought they could ‘put it back in.”  Yeah, right!   What happened in these cases was that the disc injury was worsened and pushed along the scale from mild to severe!  Manipulation is okay (and I use it in these cases), but only as long as it’s for other parts of the spine.  Good technique is also essential.
  • Avoid sitting for long periods.  Get up and move around from time to time.

  • Avoid anything which puts your back in a slouched position, whether it’s bending over a work bench or sitting in a low sofa.  If necessary, use a cushion to support your lower back.  But still remember the last tip above!
  • Avoid lifting or carrying any more than you have to.  Common sense really – the more weight in your arms = more weight onto the disc. If you have to,  lift with a straight back with the load as close to you as possible, and divide loads up into lighter ones.

 

Illustration

Seen looking down at the affected vertebra from above.  The thing sticking out at the bottom is the bony ridge of your spine that you can see and feel.  The thick liquid in the middle of the disc (called the nuclues pulposas) has burst through the disc wall and is pressing on a nerve.  In the low back this is often the sciatic nerve, but in the neck it’ll produce symptoms like burning or numbness down the arm and maybe into the hand.

A lot of injuries don’t get to this stage, but even ones that do can and do recover without surgery.

  • 25 11 14_0754Long walks can be a problem too; probably due to the repetitive torsion through the disc as your shoulders and body swing from side to side.
  •  Lie down once in a while and take some weight off your feet – and the disc; just try not to spend hour after hour in bed. as the inflammation will just collect.
  • Try an ice pack before bed.  Actually, to be effective you need to apply it 3 or 4 times for 10 minutes in the hour before you go to bed.  For some people this helps reduce the discomfort enough for them to have a better night.  Frozen peas wrapped in a layer of damp tea towel works well  Just create a thick wadge of it and put it over the general area of the low back on the side of the worst pain.
  • Take medication if you need to & can.  Sometimes ice isn’t enough and the pain is just too intense to allow for a good night’s sleep.  Not many of us like taking anti inflammatories but they can be a godsend for a few days.
  • Avoid long soaks in hot water.  Cold is the anti inflammatory, but heat can make things a lot worse, even if it feels relaxing and more pleasant to the skin.
  • Try lying on your front on the floor and arching your lower back by resting on your forearms.  If this seems to relieve your discomfort, do it often.  If you have leg pain, you might want to also try the reverse – bringing your knees to your chest whilst lying on your side, but for many this will not feel good.

 

Posted in Adults, Arm, Shoulder and Neck, Back and Hip, Sciatica