Heat And Cold Therapy Can Help Relieve Muscle Tension And Pain
Applying heat and/or cold therapy to the lower back can alleviate muscle tension that is commonly present with a lumbar herniated disc. Heat helps loosen the muscle tightness that causes spasms, increases blood flow, and improves elasticity of connective tissue.1 Cold decreases the local tissue temperature which produces an analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect, thus reducing pain.2
- Apply heat to your back in the morning or prior to stretching/exercise to decrease muscle tension.
- Other means of heat delivery include adhesive heat wrap , warm bath, and/or shower at the end of the day.
Try several options and see what works best for you. The type of heat and how you use it is often a matter of personal preference.
What Is A Herniated Disc
The condition is often an outcome of natural, age-related wear and tear, also known as disk degeneration. Herniated discs may result from an accident or injury to the back. Minor injuries or simple movements may also result in disc herniation.
Disc herniation is most common in the lower back , followed by the neck , but it can occur anywhere along the spine.
Recovering From Minimally Invasive Bulging Disc Surgery
As with any type of surgery, many factors can influence a patients recovery time following minimally invasive bulging disc surgery. Every patient is a unique individual whose body heals at a different rate, which can be difficult to accurately predict. For general planning purposes, the experts at USA Spine Care suggest preparing for a minimum of 12 weeks of rehabilitation following minimally invasive spine surgery.
With that said, some patients may recover more quickly or more slowly. It can take up to six months for the body to completely heal from surgery. During that time, it is essential to follow the surgeons postoperative instructions, maintain reasonable expectations and, most importantly, take it slow. Although it can be tempting to jump back into regular activities as soon as comfort permits, this approach is not recommended. Additionally, any activities and movements that cause or worsen discomfort should be avoided and discussed with a physician.
Resuming activities after minimally invasive spine surgery
To help our patients better prepare for minimally invasive bulging disc surgery, the spine specialists at USA Spine Care offer the following general guidelines on when certain activities can be safely and comfortably resumed after surgery:
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Life After A Herniated Disc
If weakness and a lack of movement contributed to the disc herniation, it goes without saying that certain lifestyle changes will make a big impact on preventing a recurrence of the problem. Gentle activity like walking helps, or specific exercise classes to stay flexible and strong, such as pilates may benefit. Of course, we want people to be more aware of their posture and hydration.
Most people fully recover from a herniated disc and it is important people get the right advice from a registered professional. The goal of most practitioners is to help people out of pain and onto a path of long term wellbeing.
Manual Therapy And Exercise
Manual therapists work with patients in a number of ways. When someone presents with a herniated disc, we look at the overall function of the body. We can use stretching techniques to ease the muscle spasm and then we use our hands to move the joints, to mobilise them. This mobilisation is important to free the movement and allow the bodys natural healing mechanisms to operate.
A herniated disc is not purely about the spine. As an Osteopath, I look at the hips and the whole body. If one part of the body is not moving properly, this can mean that certain movements and thus additional forces pass through the back e.g. if the hips are not moving, twisting motion which would normally be a combination of hip and lower back movement can pass primarily through the back. That puts excessive forces on the discs and they can herniate. So we look at those imbalances and work on them.
The word exercise usually elicits a groan but exercise neednt be boot camp types of exercise! Once we get movement back in the spine and start to address structural imbalances, simple exercises to strengthen the muscles will help to support the spine and ease pressure on the disc. That creates an environment for the body to heal itself and repair the injured disc.
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Will I Need To Have Spinal Surgery
Herniated disks get better on their own over time or with nonsurgical treatment for 9 out of 10 people. If other treatments dont relieve your symptoms, your healthcare provider may recommend surgery. There are multiple surgical techniques for relieving pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, including:
- Diskectomy to remove your herniated disk.
- Laminectomy to remove part of the bone around a herniated disk and expand your spinal canal.
- Artificial disk surgery to replace a damaged herniated disk with an artificial one.
- Spinal fusion to directly join two or more vertebrae together to make your spine more stable.
The Mckenzie Method Can Help Shift Sciatica Pain
The McKenzie Method is one type of physical therapy that involves a specific approach to exercise. For lumbar herniated disc pain, the goal is to shift pain away from your leg and centralize it more in your lower back.5
- Your specific symptoms typically determine which McKenzie Method exercises a physical therapist will suggest.
- After your symptoms have moved out of your leg, the approach usually shifts to longer-term rehabilitation to strengthen your back and other key muscle groups.
Even after the lumbar herniated disc pain has subsided, a back strengthening and stretching program should be continued to reduce the risk of lumbar pain returning.
Read more about McKenzie Therapy for Mechanical Low Back Pain
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More On Herniated Discs
You might be wondering the difference between, say, a herniated disc and a bulging disc.
A herniated disc is more like a disc opening and spilling its insides out, while a bulging disc is the disc stretching and protruding outward. Herniated discs are also called ruptured discs or slipped discs more often than bulging discs are. Compared to herniated discs, bulging discs are more common, and they might also go unnoticed more often since they can cause less pain. Then again, each persons symptoms are different.
The main difference between the two is that a bulging disc is thought to be caused by pressure that forces the disc to stretch, while on the other hand a herniated disc is primarily caused from a crack developing in the tough outer layer of the discs cartilage. With a herniated disc, once a crack forms its possible for the discs softer inner cartilage to move through the crack and touch surrounding nerves, similar to what happens with a bulging disc.
A herniated disc can also be a sign or symptom of other problems as well, such as:
How To Heal A Herniated Disc Quickly
A herniated disc occurs when the soft center of a vertebral disc, called the nucleus, leaks out of a tear in the casing of the spinal column. Sometimes herniated discs occur without any pain or other symptoms. However, in some cases, they cause pain, numbness, or weakness.
There is no “quick fix” for a herniated disc. Some herniated discs, also called slipped discs, heal on their own in a few weeks to a few months. The best way to foster healing in these cases is to rest, avoid activities that cause pain, and take over-the-counter pain killers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve symptoms.
During your home treatment, you can also:
- Alternate applying heat and cold.
- Stay as active as you can. Take walks to avoid becoming too stiff from resting too often.
- Try alternative treatments like acupuncture, massage, or chiropractic.
If your symptoms do not go away after a few months, your doctor may recommend other treatments, including:
- Muscle relaxants
- Prescription-strength pain killers
If your symptoms are still present after these interventions, your doctor may recommend physical therapy. You will work with a physical therapist to learn exercises that can minimize pain from a slipped disc and strengthen your back muscles to foster healing.
It is unlikely you will need surgery for a herniated disc. However, it is usually recommended in cases of slipped discs when:
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Slipped Discs Usually Resolve On Their Own But Physical Therapy Or Other Medications Can Help With Pain
The majority of disc herniations improve on their own within six weeks to three months, as the body releases enzymes to clear away the herniated piece and the pressure on the nerves goes away. But if the pain is severe enough that its really bothering you, the first step would be going to either your primary care doctor or a physiatrista sports medicine doctor who specializes in rehabilitation, Dr. Dowdell says.
If the doctor diagnoses a herniated disc, they can prescribe physical therapy. Anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen can help relieve some of the pain and swelling.
If physical therapy and anti-inflammatories are not enough, the next step would be a steroid injection in the affected area of the spine. The injection does not heal the injury, but it calms the inflammation of the nerve while the body is naturally repairing the disc herniation.
But if that doesn’t work and the pain is so severe that you cant sleep or carry out your regular daily activities, then you could consider surgery, Dr. Dowdell says.
What Is A Slipped Disc
When you have a ‘slipped’ disc, a disc does not actually slip. What happens is that part of the inner softer part of the disc bulges out through a weakness in the outer part of the disc. A prolapsed disc is sometimes called a herniated disc. The bulging disc may press on nearby structures such as a nerve coming from the spinal cord. Some inflammation also develops around the prolapsed part of the disc. Inflammation may irritate a nerve and also causes swelling, which may put pressure on a nerve.
Any disc in the spine can prolapse. However, most prolapsed discs occur in the lower back . The size of the prolapse can vary. As a rule, the larger the prolapse, the more severe the symptoms are likely to be.
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How To Decompress Your Spine To Heal A Bulging Disc
A study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Rehab Medicine looked at different body positions and how they impacted the pressure within the 3rd lumbar disc.
The researcher, Dr. Nachemson found:
When you are sitting, you experience 50% more pressure on your back then when you are standing in good posture.
Even when you lie down, you still have 25% of your standing body pressure on your spine as a result of the muscles and ligaments supporting your back.
Nachemson also found that spine decompression at an angle where 60% of your body weight is stretching your spine allows the pressure on your discs to drop to near zero.
Here are the 2 best options to do spinal decompression at home:
The first option is by using a high-quality inversion table.
Innova ITX 9600 best value inversion table in 2020
An inversion table brings a dramatic pain relief in as little as 10 seconds .
But it has long-term benefits too:
Regular inversion allows your back muscles to relax, your spine to elongate, and create space for your discs.
This space is vital to the discs ability to naturally realign, rehydrate, and return to health providing flexibility, shock absorption, and improved posture.
Heres EXACTLY how to use inversion therapy for back pain
Home Traction Device the Nubax Trio
The Nubax Trio is the best alternative for inversion tables.
The Nubax Trio is easier to get in and out of and it allows you to apply as little or as much traction as is needed.
Bulging Disc Repair: Conservative Treatments
The goal of conservative bulging disc treatment is to relieve the excess pressure on the disc so it can potentially return to its natural shape and perform its role as a shock absorber for the spine. This can be accomplished through several methods, including reducing the amount of weight the spine carries on a day-to-day basis and strengthening the muscles that provide support to the spine. Therefore, lifestyle changes are an important part of any conservative treatment plan.
Losing excess weight
The first, and most important, step is to change your diet and exercise habits so that you can lose any extra pounds that may be contributing to the pressure on your spine. By losing weight, you will likely be able to lessen the pressure on the bulging disc and potentially reduce the level of nerve compression.
Eliminate the use of tobacco products
Tobacco usage has been shown to reduce blood flow to the spine, which can encourage degeneration and slow the healing process. Heavy alcohol use may also slow the bodys natural circulation.
Modify your activities
To help avoid further injury, you should eliminate high-impact activities that can increase the inflammation in your spine, such as running and contact sports. Its also important that you evaluate your day-to-day life and eliminate frequent bending or heavy lifting, which can put a great deal of added strain on the spine.
Exercise and other options
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What Is The Treatment For A Compressed Disc
A compressed disc is a fairly common condition, and it can be quite painful. This condition, often known as a herniated disc or bulging disc, occurs when excess pressure is placed on a spinal disc, which sits between two hard vertebrae in the spine. The excess pressure can lead to a bulge in the disc, which in turn will place pressure on the nerves that run in and around the spine. A compressed disc can lead to temporary pain or permanent issues such as reduced mobility or motor control, so prompt treatment is important. Many non-surgical treatment options exist, and these are usually attempted before surgery.
Some types of braces have been designed to completely immobilize the spine, thereby taking pressure off the disc. This can help promote healing and prevent further injury to the affected area. If the disc heals, the pressure on the nerves will be alleviated and pain should cease or at least abate somewhat. This can take a long time, and the brace may be necessary for extended periods of time as prescribed by a doctor or medical professional. Wearing such a brace can be quite uncomfortable and will limit daily activities.
Exercise #: Plank To Strengthen Core/abs
A strong core will protect the spine and improve ones posture. Therefore this exercise is great at targeting those deep core muscles.
Begin lying on your stomach with your forearms against the mat.Engage your core, tuck your tailbone in and lift your body so that you are resting on your forearms and toes.Start with 10 seconds holds, and work up to 30 Seconds, 2-3 Sets.Aim for 2 to 5 repetitions of this exercise.When youre ready, increase the intensity by increasing the time you hold the plank in 10 second increments.** Ensure to keep your back straight throughout the entire exercise.
Other forms of exercise that may help, that were not mentioned above include core strength, walking, pilates, and yoga.
Seeing a primary musculoskeletal care provider is the best approach if your symptoms are not resolving. This includes DO/MD/DC/DPT.
Dr. Smith earned his Doctorate In Physical Therapy from the University of Miamis Miller School of Medicine and currently practices as a home care therapist in the Tampa Bay area. He uses his eclectic background of working with everyone from those in the ICU to elite athletes to customize care for each one of his patients and progress them toward their personal goals.
Prior to being a Physical Therapist, he earned a masters degree in public health and managed big pharma clinical trials worldwide. He enjoys CrossFit, Animals, and helping people live a pain free and active lifestyle
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Secret #: Practice Yoga
Perhaps one of the best-kept secrets about healing a herniated disc and preventing a reoccurrence is to practice yoga.
While every pose is not going to be suitable for you while you are healing, many of the poses can help shift the weight on the spine, allowing the disc to return to its correct position.
Yoga is a great way to practice better posture, reduce stress and muscle tension, improve breathing and circulation, while improving core muscles that support the spine.
Dont attempt yoga poses if you have never done them before. You might injure yourself more. See a yoga teacher and be sure to tell them about your bulging or herniated disc so they can offer you the proper poses for healing and strengthening.
Some of the best yoga poses for those with disc problems are:
- Ardah Uttanasana
- Childs Pose
How To Manage Pain From A Bulging Disc In Your Lower Back
Many doctors advise people suffering from a bulging disc to try conservative treatment options first. Thats a good idea, considering most patients gradually recover from disc abnormalities on their own, without surgery, over the course of several weeks to a couple of months.
All the options listed below can help to manage pain. Start with the lower-risk options, like rest, medication, and therapy, before advancing to injections. You may see something on the list you think youd never try, but I encourage you to keep an open mind. Not all measures work for all people, so if you try one option and its ineffective, talk to your doctor and move onbut dont eliminate something that has a chance of being helpful.
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