Did you know that the spine contains 24 bones? Of those bones, 5 of them are located in the lower back. In addition to these bones, the spine also contains several nerves and intervertebral discs. The spine is such a complex part of the body that it is not uncommon for pain to occur from time to time.
However, sometimes pain can be the cause of an underlying condition, such as a herniated disc. Herniated discs occur when the jelly-like nucleus protrudes from an intervertebral disc. This happens when the cell wall of the disc is not strong enough to keep the nucleus secure, therefore allowing it to push through the outer ring and begin to bulge. A herniated disc can develop anywhere along the spine; however, they are most common in the lower back.
Lower back pain, ranging from moderate to severe, is one of the first symptoms of a herniated disc. In addition to this, you may also notice weakness, numbness in the legs, or sharp and shooting pains. In some severe cases, patients have also reported losing their bladder control as a result of a herniated disc. If you are experiencing back pain and you think it may be caused by a herniated disc, contact Empower Physical Therapy today to find out how we can help.
How do herniated discs occur?
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 overweight.
- Being between the ages of 20-50.
- Being male.
- Engaging in improper lifting techniques.
- Engaging in a sedentary lifestyle.
- Driving frequently.
How do I know if I have a herniated disc?
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 can I find relief?
Your physical therapist will create a treatment plan that specifically targets your individual needs. This will begin with passive treatments to ease your pain and improve your function, including manual therapy, traction, ice and heat therapies, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, or hydrotherapy.
Active treatments will begin once your passive treatments are complete. This may include core exercises to strengthen your back, stretching and flexibility exercises to increase range of motion, and any additional muscle strengthening exercises that your physical therapist deems fit. In addition to these exercises, your physical therapist will advise you on any lifestyle changes he or she may recommend, in order to decrease your risk of future pain and injury.
If you are looking for a natural, safe, and non-invasive way to treat your herniated discs, look no further. Our physical therapy offices are equipped with the best resources and methods for helping you recover and get back to your life. Request an appointment today at one of our locations in Anchorage, AK or Wasilla, AK to get started on the first steps toward relief!