A herniated disc is one of the most common causes of lower back pain that we see in our clinic on a day to day basis.
So today what we're going to talk about is what a herniated disc is, some signs and symptoms of a herniated disc, causes that may be causing that disc to become irritated, and treatment solutions to hopefully alleviate that herniated disc.
What Is A Herniated Disc?
What a disc is, is it is a spacer that is between the vertebral bodies of all of our spinal segments, particularly we're talking about the low back or the lumbar spine today.
And these are soft cushion-like material with a little bit of fluid in the middle and with a herniated disc that fluid begins to protrude outward towards the back of the spine towards our nerve roots.
Signs & Symptoms
And that is commonly what the pain sensation you'll be feeling is, is that pushing on the nerve roots.
Some common signs and symptoms of a herniated disc are sharp pain local into the low back with a grabbing-like sensation.
And you'll commonly feel also some sort of pain down the leg, into either the thigh, calf, or foot.
Can include tingling, burning, a numbness feeling, or even some sharp throbbing pains into the leg or foot.
So a couple of common causes of a herniated disc that we commonly see in our clinic are hypermobility of the lumbar spine and the surrounding ligamentous structures.
So if the spine is hypermobile and moving too much in a particular direction, it can create abnormal pressure on the disc, thus causing it to push and protrude out onto that nerve root.
Poor Lifting Mechanics
Another big common one that we see and hear about often is poor lifting mechanics or abnormal postures with lifting.
When the low back is flexed and is in a flex position with increased lifting a weight such as with a deadlift can increase the pressure on a disc causing it to herniate or protrude out or bulge. You might've heard any of those different terms.
Poor Sitting Posture
Another common cause that we see of an irritated disc is poor sitting posture.
So again, sitting with a slouched position sometimes with a little bit of rounded, a rounded position to the low back.
Another common cause that we see down the road is the tightness of the hips.
Hip tightness often creates excess motion at the lumbar spine.
So if our hips aren't moving freely, the low back or the lumbar spine tends to try and move to make up for that lack of motion at the hips and can cause increased stress, which would then cause the herniated disc and the subsequent symptoms like the pain down the leg, or the sharp grabbing pain into the low back.
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Common treatments that we use for a herniated disc that you'll see, one method that you'll hear about is called the McKenzie Method or McKenzie Extension sometimes call it.
So what that means is herniated discs have what we call a directional preference, which means sometimes moving your body or your back in a certain position actually alleviates the pressure on the nerve and allows you to function more smoothly.
So one common thing you'll see is what we call repeated extension, which is just extending the spine back like this, I'm looking up towards the ceiling.
And what you should notice if this treatment technique is working, is that the pain that's traveling down the legs should start to localize and kind of travel back up and be more towards the back and not as far down to the leg or foot.
Tractioning The Spine
Another option that we have is traction. So kind of tractioning the spine, allowing the disc some freedom of movement to kind of get back into its place, take the pressure off of the nerve root is another option.
Changing your sitting mechanics. So adding in a little bit of lumbar support or sitting in a more upright position can offload the disc and reduce nerve root irritation.
Mobilize The Hips
Increasing the mobility of the hips, and allowing the hips to move more, which will take some stress off the lumbar spine and herniated disc.
Spinal Stabilization Techniques
And another good option that we tend to use here is spinal stabilization techniques, things that enforce the muscles of the low back, keep them strong and steady that way.
If there is any sort of hypermobility to the lumbar spine, those muscles are able to make up for that.
Conclusion: Fix The Cause
So again, when we're talking about herniated discs, oftentimes you'll feel pain down into the little leg or foot that is the nerve being pushed on by the disc.
Common causes of that are hypermobility of the low back, poor lifting or sitting mechanics, tight hips.
Ways to fix this are finding directional preferences that work for your low back, finding positions of relief, improving your sitting and lifting posture, and keeping those back and core muscles strong.
Most importantly, you want to make sure you find the exact cause of your herniated disc, and then that's the best way we can treat it.
If you think you might be suffering with a herniated disc call our office at 239-223-0484 and schedule your appointment today!