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‘Slipped Discs’ (or Disc Herniations)

While you may have heard people say they have a ‘slipped disc’ in their low back, our discs do not actually slip out of place.  Usually what has occurred is a disc herniation.  A healthy disc in our back is made up of an outer ring of strong ligaments, with a spongy centre called the nucleus. Discs help absorb shock and protect our spine from forces that occur with activity. A disc herniation occurs when the nucleus pushes out of its normal position, stressing the outer ring of ligaments and causing the disc to bulge outward.  Herniations occur most often in people between 30-40 years of age because as we age the outer ring of the disc will weaken, making it more susceptible to pressure from the bulging disc.

Certain activities put us more at risk, including vigorous or repeated bending, or twisting and lifting, as they will cause injury to the outer ligamentous ring of the discs. This can happen over time for someone who does these activities regularly, or can occur suddenly when lifting while bent forward and twisted to the side.

Signs of a disc herniation depend on the extent of the disc bulge, and range from central low back pain, to pain through the buttocks and down one or both legs, which is also known as sciatica. There can also be a feeling of numbness or pins and needles going down the legs if the bulged disc puts pressure on a spinal nerve. If you have a loss of control or change in bowel or bladder function, or feel numbness or tingling between your legs, a large herniation has likely occurred and is pushing directly back into the lower spinal cord – get to the ER to prevent permanent loss of bladder and bowel control!

Physiotherapy will help with pain control, showing you positions that will ease the pressure on the disc and therefore decrease your pain. Hands-on manual therapy techniques are also used to traction the spine and take pressure off of the disc.  Acupuncture helps to reduce inflammation in your nerves and rebalance the flow of nerve impulses.  As your pain lessens, your physiotherapist will teach you core activation and strengthening to support your low back and prevent future injuries, and teach you functional movements to help your regain participation in your daily activities.  Trust an experienced Physiotherapist to manage your disc herniation.

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One Comment

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