Mostly everyone can and will experience lower back pain at some time in their lives and sometimes it can come from something slightly more serious, like a disc problem. Disc problems can be tricky to deal with, especially if they are not taken care of right away. There are two types of lower back pain that discs can be a part of, either irritation of a spinal nerve or a degenerative disc disease (DDD).
The anatomy of the disc is pretty simple. There is a center called the nucleus pulposus. The outer part of the disc is called the annulus fibrous with an inner and outer zone. Normally a disc won’t bother someone from one instant but usually from years of wear and tear like being overweight, improper techniques of lifting. It doesn’t have to be something heavy either, It can be as simple as picking up something like a laundry basket, but just doing it the wrong way.
In the terms of a pinched nerve causing pain, it occurs when the disc becomes herniated or pushes out of its boundaries (annuls fibrous) and then is allowed to irritate the surrounding nerve that goes out to the body. Most commonly in the lower back, this is the irritation of the sciatic nerve. It then causes radiating pain that goes down the leg. The other way a disc becomes painful most often occurs over years and increased stress and the disc begins to degenerate and break down. DDD occurs with age and is most common in older adults or those who have had injuries to the spine or body. It is common to see with osteoporosis.
Disc problems that cause tend to not go away as quickly so they can take a while to get fully under control. They can also create pain again very quickly. If it gets too bad while doing conservative care, then that is when you need to take more action and be seen by an orthopedist.
However, here are some simple tips and things that you can do and what we recommend to help decrease your pain if you have it and chances of injuring a disc:
1. Practice the proper squat and way to bend over to pick things up.
Do not twist while lifting. See our previous post about how to perform a squat, Exercise of the Week, Squat. Bend with your knees.
2. Ice the area during the times it is inflamed to help reduce the pain you feel.
You should ice for 20 minutes with a towel placed between you and the ice pack.
3. Relax the muscle.
A healthcare professional can use electrical muscle stimulation or soft tissue muscle work to help control the pain and help promote muscle relaxation. A massage may also help to relieve pain.
4. See your chiropractor for an adjustment.
Making sure your pelvis and thoracic spine is moving correctly takes stress away from the lumbar spine. A particular technique like Cox Flexion-Distraction or decompression can be helpful for disc problems by helping to restore water and space to the disc, alleviating pain.
5. Movement is sometimes the best medicine.
Walking for 20 to 30 minutes once a day is exercise but the gentle movement promotes pumping in the spine and that helps to reduce pain.
6. Work your core.
Spinal stabilization exercises when seated and pain-free range of motion is very important. Once the pain is decreasing, then stronger core exercises can be performed. Review our previous blogs about core stability and exercises as it is most important to have stability when dealing with lumbar disc issues.
7. You are what you eat.
Nutrition is very important when we are talking disc support and pain relief as inflammation is good but added inflammation keeps pain there longer. Try to drink more water, eat more fish and healthy fats to help reduce inflammation. The 80/20 rule is a good rule of moderation when you are feeling better. You can supplement with omega 3 fatty acid or fish oil if you prefer but making sure you have a good quality supplement is important. Try to eat better to feel better.
8. Think about how you are sleeping.
Your sleeping position should be on your back with your knees bent or on your side with a pillow between your knees for support. It is important to maintain a neutral spine when you are sleeping and you should not sleep on your stomach if you have lower back problems.
Try doing some of these simple tips and if you are in need of help, pain relief or just have questions, please give our office a call. We would be happy to help you get out of pain and get you back in motion. At Fletcher Chiropractic, we keep you in motion.