Slipped Disc Treatment and Exercise Tips
If you’re suffering from a slipped disc, you’re not alone. Read about treatments and exercises to relieve slipped discs here.
Are you experiencing back pain while moving? How about tingling sensations in your limbs?
A slipped disc may be to blame. In fact, the condition is quite common. About 60% to 80% of people will experience lower back pain, and for a large percentage of these people, a herniated disc is the culprit.
If you suspect such is your case, you’ll want to read on. In this article, we’ll look at the potential causes and risk factors for a slipped disc, its numerous stages, most common treatments, and some essential exercise tips for faster recovery.
Slipped (Herniated) Disc: Risk Factors, Symptoms, And Treatment
A slipped disc results from the breakdown of the connective tissue around the disc. Following the breakdown, the gel-like part of the disc swells.
This condition doesn’t occur overnight. It goes through four stages: disc degeneration, prolapse, extrusion, and sequestration.
The causes of connective tissue breakdown are not always clear. However, aging is closely linked to slipped discs. Spinal discs lose water content through the years, making discs more fragile and less flexible.
The list of symptoms that follow disc herniation can vary from one patient to another. That said, they often include:
Pain and numbness on one side of the body
Abnormal muscle weakness
Tingling and pins-and-needles sensations
Pain extending to arms and limbs
Even younger people can fall victim to slipped discs, and the usual risk factors include:
Smoking (reduces the body’s oxygen supply)
Improper and heavy lifting
Accidents (such as falling)
Fortunately, a herniated disc will slowly but surely improve. But many patients experience episodes of pain on the way to recovery. To help them cope, doctors recommend non-surgical aids such as:
NSAIDs or analgesics
Codeine and corticosteroids
Muscle relaxants to relieve back and leg muscle tension
Note: Only a small number of patients need surgical treatment for a slipped disc. Surgery is a last resort and is recommended only when non-surgical treatments don’t work.
Keep in mind, however, that pain-killing drugs are not prescribed to cure the condition. They are prescribed to relieve the pain.
Back Pain Keeps You From Moving? Exercise Is Your Best Friend!
Resting for a day or two after a slipped disc is often necessary, especially if you are in severe pain. Once the backaches subside, however, you must resist the temptation to lie down for prolonged periods of time.
A sedentary lifestyle can further weaken the lower back muscles that lend support to the spine, worsening the injury. Moreover, your body may not respond to medical treatment if you cut out exercise from your daily activities.
Counter-intuitive as it sounds, an active lifestyle is one of your best allies in the fight against slipped disc and back pain.
“Don’t let anyone tell you a disc injury is for life,” says Andrew Lock.
As a physiotherapist, rehabilitation specialist, and bodybuilder, Andrew has taken numerous patients saddled with disc injury back to 100% pre-injury function through exercise.
One of his patients with a major disc injury took only three months to fully recover. And six months after the injury, the patient was back at the gym, doing 1,000-lb calf raises.
Now, lifting 1,000 lbs of iron or enduring an intense cardio session may sound intimidating. Don’t worry: simple aerobic exercises and stretching can go a long way in relieving back pain caused by a herniated disc.
Here are some handy tips and reminders to keep in mind while exercising:
Start slow. Treating a slipped disc is similar to losing excess weight. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. About 10 minutes of aerobic exercise during your first day is enough. However, you’ll want to gradually increase the time you spend on exercise to 30 minutes, 5 days a week.
Steer clear of physical activities that can aggravate disc injury. This includes reaching, heavy lifting, and prolonged sitting. Abdominal exercises like sit-ups and crunches can also strain the back, doing more harm than good.
Skip the back brace. Back braces are often recommended after a spine surgery to help the bones heal and provide more stability. For treating injuries like a slipped disc, however, wearing a back brace can weaken the muscles and intensify the pain.
Don’t worry if the pain increases when you start exercising. It’s normal, and the presence of pain doesn’t mean your condition is worsening. As long as the exercises are gentle and don’t strain the back, the pain will soon settle.
When seeking an exercise program, keep in mind that a cookie-cutter approach doesn’t exist.
Different patients require different exercises to treat herniated discs. A patient’s treatment program may recommend consulting with a physiotherapist for a tailored exercise plan to reduce pain and prevent the spine from sustaining further damage.
However, core strengthening exercises (like planks and side planks) are often an excellent recommendation. Most patients don’t realize the importance of front and back support in maintaining a healthy spine. If the back muscles are too weak (usually the case with slipped discs), stronger abdominal muscles can give the spine much-needed stability and relieve back pain.
You Don’t Have To Live With Back Pain
The effects of a slipped disc clearly go beyond pain.
Oftentimes, it’s the condition’s negative lifestyle impacts that can bog down a patient. Nighttime turns to nightmare as the pain worsens. Weak muscles make lifting impossible. Even standing, sitting, and walking for a few minutes can be difficult as the pain extends to arms and limbs.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics even pointed to back pain and injuries as the number one safety problem in the workplace – plaguing over one million workers annually and responsible for 60% of cases of people missing work.
But a slipped disc doesn’t have to be a back-breaker.
We’ve looked at the most common and effective treatments for a herniated disc: from pain killers of varying strength, physiotherapy, and exercise, to surgery as a last resort.
With proper guidance from a medical professional and a commitment to staying fit, you can return to your normal lifestyle, free from chronic back pain.
Are you ready to slip away from slipped discs?