Discal pathologies (disc bulges/herniations and degenerative disc disease) usually build up over extended periods of time as a result of a gradual wear and tear until a sudden movement or action causes the annulus to rupture. However, in many cases individuals are unable to pinpoint the cause of their injured disc.
The majority of disc issues occur within the lower back, although they can also occur in the neck and rarely at the mid back. Signs and symptoms depend on where the disk is situated and whether the disk is pressing on a nerve. They usually affect one side of the body but in some cases both limbs may be affected. If you are suffering from a disc pathology you may experience:
- Local pain at the site of injury
- Stiffness and decreased range of motion
- Radiating pain, numbness, tingling and weakness may affect certain areas of the body due to specific nerves roots that are compressed or irritated. A discal pathology at the low back may cause pain to radiate down the buttocks, thigh, calf and sometimes all the way to the toes, while a disc injury at the neck may result in pain down the shoulder, arm and hand.
- You may experience shooting pain into your arm or leg when you cough, sneeze or move into certain positions.
What can often make disc issues so painful is that they can press directly on nerves in charges of relaying pain signals to the brain. However, in some cases local pain may not accompany radiating nerve pain down the leg(s) or arm(s). It is also possible to have a discal pathology without symptoms at all. Specialized spinal imaging, such as MRI and/or CT scans, are often inconclusive.
Factors that can increase your risk of a problematic disks include: sedentary work, prolonged sitting postures, obesity, strenuous physical occupations, performing repetitive lifting/ pulling/ pushing/ bending/ twisting and smoking. Some people may even inherit a genetic predisposition to developing degenerative disc disease. The incidence of disc protrusions/extrusions (disc bulge/herniation) are most likely in populations ranging from 20-40 year old while older individuals are more likely to experience disc related pain through degenerative processes. Proper lifting techniques and posture will reduce your risk of developing disc issues.
Avoiding the above factors that you can control, such as: maintaining a healthy weight, staying active, maintaining a good posture and limiting repetitive stress on the spine is the first step in avoiding excessive stress to the spinal discs. Using the legs to lift heavy objects, as well as strengthening and increasing trunk/core muscles coordination to help stabilize and support the spine can also help mitigate the risks of suffering a discal pathology.
Chiropractic care can help mazimise joint mobility and normalize the muscle tension created by the disc pathology thereby decreasing the strain on the disc allowing it to heal faster and stronger. Laser/photobiomodulation therapy can help by directly influencing tissue regeneration, increasing blood flow to the injured area and controlling inflammation leading to long term positive outcomes. Surgery is a last resort when it comes to disc pathology management and is usually only necessary in extreme cases.
It’s important to note that once you suffer from this type of injury you are predisposed to recurrences. Therefore, it is important to continue to maintain proper posture, movement patterns, regular spinal assessments and continue to complete rehabilitative exercise even when you’re feeling asymptomatic to decrease the risk of re-aggravation. At the RL clinic, treatment using sophisticated technologies, is directed specifically to address the particular discal issues in view of a better outcome.