Our physical therapy clinic strongly believes that an educated patient is an empowered patient! That’s why we love to not only help relieve our patients’ pain but also continue educating our patients so that they can gain a better understanding of the health conditions they’re facing. A herniated discs is one of the most common conditions treated by a physical therapist. If you’ve ever wondered if your back pain is caused by a disc herniation, then we invite you to contact our clinic soon and schedule an initial examination.
In the meantime, keep reading to learn five of the most important things to know about this issue and what causes it to occur.
Causes of herniated discs
Sometimes, people are unable to determine what caused their herniated disc. We move so much, and there are certainly moments where we injure ourselves and don’t realize it until days or weeks later when the pain hits! The most common symptoms of a herniated disc are arm or leg pain. Many patients report feeling tingling, numbness, or a general feeling of weakness in their extremities.
You may also feel pain in your calf, thigh, and buttocks. If you have a herniated disc in the neck, you’re likely to feel pain in the arm and shoulder. When you cough or sneeze, the pain may shoot into your leg. Numbness or tingling may be felt in parts of the body. You may also be unable to lift items, as the muscles served by the affected nerves tend to weaken.
1. Herniated is not synonymous with “slipped.”
You might have heard people say that herniated discs are slipped discs. The term “slipped disc” isn’t all that accurate, however. That is, discs don’t truly slip out of place. They either bulge or herniate. With a disc bulge, the spinal disc (normally aligned between two vertebrae) protrudes out of place due to some sort of abnormal pressure or force. With a disc herniation, the outer fibrous layer of the disc ruptures, which allows the disc’s inner substances to leak out into the surrounding area.
2. Not everyone experiences the same symptoms.
While some herniated discs have no symptoms at all, others may lead to stiffness, pain, and protective muscle guarding at the level of the herniation (this type of disc injury happens the most often in the neck and lower back).
Pain can fluctuate depending on your activity. The type and severity of symptoms you experience from a herniated disc depends on several factors, such as where the herniated disc occurs, how severe it is, and whether the injured disc tissue compresses on any nearby structures, like spinal nerve roots.
If a herniated nerve compresses a spinal nerve root, a person may notice numbness, tingling, pain, and weakness that radiates into the leg or arm innervated by that nerve.
3. Some individuals are at a higher risk than others for disc herniation
One part of a physical therapist’s role is to help patients to recognize and then lower their risks for certain health conditions. Lowering risk factors include decreasing the amount of physically challenging work, poor posture, excessive bending or lifting, smoking, and obesity. Increased age, trauma, family history, and male gender are among the non‐modifiable risk factors.
4. Physical therapy is a leading treatment for herniated discs.
Physical therapy treatment of herniated discs may include:
- Joint mobilizations and spinal traction, intended to realign and heal injured disc tissue
- Corrective exercises to increase core stabilization and posture
- Manual therapy to increase healing circulation and alleviate connective tissue tension
- Pain-relieving modalities like diathermy, electrical stimulation, and Kinesio tape
- Prescription of adaptive equipment and devices like orthoses to enhance posture and function
These treatment methods, modalities, and therapeutic services will be individualized to meet your specific goals and needs, so it’s important to realize that your treatment may be different than another person who is dealing with a similar issue.
5. Even if do end up requiring surgery to fix your herniated disc, physical therapy can still help.
Operations are usually considered a last resort for herniated discs. But even if you and your doctor decide that surgical correction is the best choice for your needs, it’s still beneficial to receive physical therapy before and after your surgery.
A physical therapist can maximize your core strength and stabilization, address other areas of postural imbalances that may be contributing to your disc herniation, and guide you through therapeutic exercises and lifestyle or occupational modifications that can optimize your outcomes. Our non-invasive modalities can ease post-operative pain and get you back to your life ASAP.
You don’t have to continue to live with herniated disc pain
Rest assured when you’re in our clinic, you’re in capable hands. Our physical therapy team will be able to assess your condition, pinpoint the source of your pain, and create a customized treatment plan to help you get back to living a healthy, comfortable life. Call our office today to schedule an appointment.