Our spine is formed of bones (vertebrae) that are cushioned by discs that are small and spongy. These discs play the role of shock absorbers for the spine and keep it flexible. When this disc gets damaged, it might bulge or get ruptured. This condition is called a herniated disc or is also known as a slipped disc.
While herniated discs can happen in any part of the spine, it usually affects the lower back area known as the lumbar spine. It could also happen in the neck and the upper back, but these occurrences are rare. We are about to know more about a slipped disc in the lower back area. Let us read further about what causes a herniated disc and how to prevent it.
- Wear and tear of the disc: Your discs can dry out and become less flexible as you age. This might lead to a slipped disc. Excessive exercise or unobserved strenuous physical activity may also cause this condition.
- Spinal Injury: An injury to your spine may cause cracks and tears in the outer layer of the disc. In such cases the gel that is inside the disc and responsible for the cushioning effect is pushed out onto the surface through these tears. This can result in the disc to bulge and break open.
- Obesity, overweight and smoking can also lead to this condition
If a slipped disc presses and puts pressure on nerve roots, it can cause a lot of pain in the entire area of the body where the nerve traverses. If the slipped disc is in the lower back area, the most common ailment caused is Sciatica that causes pain and numbness in the entire leg starting from the buttock.
Sometimes if the disc is not putting pressure on a nerve, you might experience very little pain or nothing at all. However, if you feel a numbness or mild pain in the legs accompanied by loss of control on your bladder and bowels, then see a doctor immediately. It could be because of a condition called cauda equina syndrome.
A slipped disc cannot be cured by medication. However a combination of medication and exercises can alleviate the pain and allow the damage to be repaired. It might take anywhere between a few weeks to a few months.
- If you have severe pain, then bed rest is advisable, but otherwise it helps to remain adequately active. Staying in bed for long hours continuously for days at a stretch can lead to weakening of muscles and worsen the problem. Walking and other mild activities can be of great help.
- A doctor may suggest a heating pad or an ice pack for your condition depending on the condition. Apply heat or ice periodically to relieve the pain and allow for repair.
- Physical therapy under the observation of a trained therapist will be of immense help. These exercises will keep your back muscles strong and prevent further injury.
- Medication for the pain and swelling will be of help.
A slipped disc is usually self-healing. Under rare circumstances one might have to go for surgery to correct the condition. Medication and exercise can only prevent further injury and keep the pain in check.
Once you have a slipped disc, you are prone to back problems in the future. To help your back remain injury free and healthy follow some simple tips:
- Keep your body weight under check.
- Exercising regularly.
- Quit smoking. Nicotine and other toxins from tobacco smoke lower the discsâ€™ ability to absorb key nutrients from your body to stay healthy.
- Good Posture. A good posture is very important in not putting undue stress on your spine.
- A good posture is very important while walking and standing. Keep your back straight, tuck your stomach in and pull your buttocks towards the spine.
- Use an ergonomic chair while sitting or ensure you have enough support for your lower back by using a small pillow.
- Keep your back in neutral position when sleeping. A pillow under your knees when sleeping on your back is suggested.
- When working out, ask your trainer for the right posture. A wrong posture will not only be useless in working your muscles but will also affect your spine badly.