You know something is wrong with you, but you're not sure what it is.
Strange neck pains, back pains, or extremities symptoms can suggest a multitude of issues, including a herniated disc or several herniated discs.
What are your options if you have a herniated disc? These questions don't have to add to your physical pain and confusion!
Our physical therapist has provided some useful information regarding herniated discs, their frequent symptoms, and how physical therapy can help you overcome your discomfort.
Herniated discs, defined
"Herniated disc," "slipped disc," and "ruptured disc" are all just different ways of describing the same physical problem. Your spinal discs are squat discs of tissue that lie between the vertebrae.
A disc consists of a fluid-filled center called the nucleus pulposus encased in an outer structure called the annulus fibrosus. This arrangement makes the disc both tough enough and spongy enough to absorb shocks.
Unfortunately, that toughness has its limits. Sometimes a disc will lose hydration over time, causing the nucleus pulposus to shrink. The disc loses its height, which stresses the spinal joints and may cause the disc to bulge outward.
Eventually these changes can cause part of the annulus fibrosus to balloon and tear open; this is a herniated disc. Herniated discs can also occur suddenly due to an auto accident, workplace accident, or sports injury that traumatizes the spine.
Symptoms of a herniated disc
Herniated discs don't always cause symptoms, but the symptoms that they do cause can help you troubleshoot the nature of your problem. The most common symptoms include:
- An inability to walk more than a few steps without pain
- Pain, tingling, or loss of sensation in a limb (the result of a herniated disc pressing against nerve roots)
- Back pain that seems to grow worse when you sneeze, cough, stand up, or sit down
- Neck pain (if it's a cervical disc)
- Symptoms that began after you gained a lot of weight (since obesity is a risk factor for disc problems)
- Symptoms that started shortly after an accident, extreme twisting of the neck or back, or an attempt to lift a heavy object
If your symptoms seem to be soothed by massage, heat, or cold, you're more likely to have a strained muscle or tendon than a herniated disc.
Ultimately, the most accurate way to confirm a herniated disc is through medical imaging. X-rays can reveal not only the abnormal shape of a herniated disc, but also whether the herniation is pinching a nerve.
Treatment for herniated discs
Physical therapy is an effective treatment for herniated discs. One of our physical therapists will run diagnostic tests at your first consultation to discover the source of your discomfort and confirm that it is really caused by a herniated disc.
Once the source of your pain has been identified, a personalised treatment plan tailored to your unique needs will be developed for you. This usually consists of a sequence of stretches and movements targeted at reducing discomfort, enhancing function, and supporting your body's natural healing process. As your physical therapist sees fit, further treatments may be offered. These are some of them:
- Manual therapy
- Ice and heat therapies
- Class IV laser therapy
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
- Education on posture and lifting mechanics
Your physical therapist will also advise you on any lifestyle changes that may be recommended in order to prevent herniated discs from developing again in the future. Physical therapy is one of the safest, quickest, and most effective ways to treat herniated discs. It is a holistic and non-invasive approach that, in many cases, has been able to eliminate the need for harmful drugs or surgical intervention.
A PT can help you feel better, faster
A herniated disc can cause a lot of misery -- but don't panic. Most herniated discs can be treated successfully without surgery. Physical therapy can be instrumental in helping you reduce or eliminate your symptoms.
Our physical therapist can recommend specific exercises to build up the strength in your back or neck. These exercises can counter any atrophy or weakness you've experienced due to your herniated disc. They can also reinforce your neck and back, lending these structures extra support and making them less vulnerable to future herniation.
We may also recommend other non-invasive techniques to complement your physical therapy exercises and help you heal.
Contact us today
Are you ready to learn more about herniated discs and get the answers your neck or back needs? Contact our physical therapist today to schedule a consultation!