Your spine is a complex part of the body. Basically, it consists of twenty-four bones, with five in the lower back. Also, it contains a vast network of numerous nerves and intervertebral discs. Often, the jelly-like nucleus of these discs can “herniate,” or protrude, through the cell wall, if it’s not strong enough. Furthermore, if this pressure continues, it can push through the outer ring and begin to bulge. Herniated discs occur along the spine, and most often, they occur in the lower back.
Generally, lower back pain is the first symptom of this a herniated disc. Other symptoms may include numbness or weakness in the legs, shooting pain down the back of one leg, or loss of bladder control. Back pain can range from moderate to severe. Therefore, if you’re experiencing back pain and you think it may be the result of a herniated disc, call your physical therapist to see how PT can help you get back to a pain-free life.
What causes herniated discs?
Herniated discs are typically the products of aging, as the spine begins to wear down and become more brittle. This is what experts call “disc degeneration.” Basically, the discs in the spine contain a high water content when we’re young, but as we age, that water content gradually decreases. Ultimately, 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 male.
- Excess weight.
- Being between the ages of 20-50.
- Engaging in improper lifting techniques.
- Driving frequently.
- Engaging in a sedentary lifestyle.
How do I know if I have a herniated disc?
First and foremost, if you believe you may be suffering from a herniated disc, it’s important to consult your primary care physician first. Your doctor will perform a physical exam to assess muscle strength and sensation. Ultimately, this checks the condition of the disc, and he or she may also conduct a neurological exam.
If your doctor believes there’s a disc herniation, they’ll most likely perform a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan 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. And, if the disc is putting pressure on the spine, it will be visible in the scan. Then, your doctor will provide you with a treatment plan, and will likely recommend physical therapy for pain relief.
How physical therapy can help:
After going through an evaluation with your physical therapist, he or she will begin your treatment with passive physical therapy. Passive physical treatments include deep tissue massage, hot and cold therapy, hydrotherapy, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) and traction.
Additionally, deep tissue massage utilizes pressure to relieve muscle tension and spasms. And, hot therapy may increase blood flow to the target area to accelerate healing. In addition, cold therapy helps reduce inflammation. Hydrotherapy relaxes muscles and brings pain relief. The TENS machine uses an electrical current that triggers the release of endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers. Moreover, traction may be implemented to reduce pressure on the spine.
After your passive physical therapy is complete, your physical therapist will create an active treatment plan for you. Basically, this may include core exercises to strengthen your back, stretching and flexibility exercises to increase range of motion, and muscle strengthening exercises. Also, your physical therapist will give you self-care advice that you can implement on your own, in order to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle after treatment.
Conclusion – Farmingdale Physical Therapy West
Ultimately, physical therapy is a proven-effective healing technique for disc herniation and staying healthier, stronger and more active. Of course, it’s a noninvasive alternative to surgery and a natural way to relieve pain without the need for harmful drugs. If you are suffering from back pain or a disc herniation, give us a call to schedule a consultation today. Our experienced and certified physical therapists would be happy to help you get you started on your process toward long-lasting pain relief.