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Disc Problems

Inter-vertebral discs – please read ‘how the back works‘ before reading the following.

Disc injuries cover a whole spectrum of problems including disc degeneration, disc prolapse and a disc bulge, all in varying levels of severity. Minor injuries will feel like a localized ache over the spine; more severe injuries cause intense pain and immobility, with pain, pins and needles, numbness and/or weakness in the legs. This is due to irritation or compression of the nerves leaving the spine. Symptoms are often worse when bending forwards, sitting, or with straining e.g. cough or sneeze. In very rare and severe cases genital numbness, bladder retention and/or bowel incontinence can occur. If you have any of these you must go to A&E for immediate medical assessment and treatment.It is important to see your Physiotherapist, Osteopath or Doctor for a diagnosis and treatment plan, to ascertain the severity of the problem, and ensure the necessary is done for the pain to settle quickly and avoid recurrence as much as possible. Disc problems can grumble on if not treated properly, and people often put up with recurring episodes or grumbling back pain without realizing they have an underlying disc problem. The majority of disc prolapses often recover well with physiotherapy or osteopathy. Treatment often includes mobilisation of the stiff joints and massage of the tight muscles above and below the damaged disc, in order to take the strain away from the disc, as well as taping to give support to the injured area, acupuncture to reduce the pain in the back and leg, strengthening exercises to stabilize the damaged area, posture correction in sitting and standing, and retraining movements to take the pressure off the damaged area for example when walking or training. We give advice on what you can do yourself to help get comfortable fast and for good.

A very small number of disc problems fail to recover fully with physio and osteo and require surgery.The common factors that contribute to causing disc injury are outlined below. These things need to addressed thoroughly in treatment to enable full recovery and limit risk of recurrence.

1) Localised instability with stiffness above and below the damaged disc. Please click on the links to learn how to train your deep core stability musclesand how to mobilise your thoracic spine.

2) Poor posture particularly when sitting at work, at home or in a car. Please click on the link to learn how to correct your sitting posture.

3) Incorrect bending and lifting technique. Make sure you end and lift correctly by flexing at your hips and kneesinstead of your spine and keep whatever you are lifting close to your body.

4) Incorrect exercise or sporting technique. For example, make sure there is no flexion or rotation during weight lifting and pulley work, because this is when the discs are most vulnerable. Make sure your lower back is slightly concave and all the flexion you need occurs at the hips and knees. Ask a personal trainer, physio or osteo if you are not sure how. Also, when doing seated exercises, for example rowing, and weight machines, make sure your lower back is supported by a rolled up towel or cushion and your knees and hips are slightly bent.

Please click on the link to learn how to correct your sitting posture.

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