Slipped disc – what you need to know
Disc bulge is more commonly referred to as a ‘slipped disc’ and is a spinal condition that causes back pain. The condition can also be called ‘disc protrusion’ or a ‘herniated disc’. A slipped disc can be painful, because the intervertebral disc can push onto the spinal cord or nerve roots.
However, you can also have disc bulge and not experience any symptoms. Around 20% of the population is walking around with a slipped disc and are not even aware of it! If you have pain or discomfort relating to a slipped disc, then osteopathy is a recommended treatment by GPs.
At Relieve Clinic, we can help you manage disc bulge with a range of osteopathic treatments. Let’s take a more detailed look the causes and symptoms of disc bulge, and how our osteopathy treatments can help.
A bulged disc occurs when an intervertebral disc sustains damage due to some kind of injury or wear and tear. The disc, which is a type of shock absorber for the spine, slips out of place and bulges through the connective tissue.
There are 23 discs in the spine and disc bulge can happen at any of the three main points along its length: lumbar spine (lower back), thoracic spine (upper and mid-back) or cervical spine (neck).
A disc can also rupture and the soft gel like center can become herniated, compressing nearby nerve roots or irritating the spinal cord.
A disc bulge is a common form of back problem, especially amongst those who are 40 to 50 years of age. Age-related wear and tear also makes people more susceptible to disc bulge. Bones lose density, while soft tissue loses its moisture content, leading to reduced elasticity, and leaving discs prone to bulging or herniating.
People can also experience a slipped disc due to sporting injury, poor biomechanics or performing certain movements repetitively. Sitting for long periods in an office job, long distance driving, lifting heavy objects continually with poor posture, are all activities that contribute to a disc bulge. People may also have a family history of slipped discs, which can increase their likelihood of having one.
As mentioned previously, it’s possible to have a bulged disc and be blissfully unaware of the fact, simply because you don’t experience any painful symptoms. It’s only when a slipped disc, or herniated disc comes into contact with spinal nerves, that you might experience pain.
Disc bulge may not always be immediately apparent as the cause of pain. In some cases, a person may only complain of pain in their arms or legs, with a herniated disc present in their neck or lower back. Therefore, it’s a good idea to see a trained professional, like an osteopath, who will be aware of the signs of a disc bulge.
Here are three ways a disc bulge presents pain in the areas of the spine:
1. Pain in the neck region
A disc bulge in the cervical spine can cause pain to be felt in the neck, and possibly in the shoulders, arms, hands and fingers. There may be a feeling of pins and needles, numbness or tingling, and a loss of sensation. Weakness in the arm, shoulder and hand muscles may also be associated.
2. Pain in the mid back
A disc bulge in the thoracic spine is not very common, but if it does occur, then it can present as back spasms. The compression of nerve roots can lead to pain, numbness and/or pins and needles in the ribcage and/or legs.
3. Pain in the lower back
A disc bulge in the lower back is one of the common causes of sciatica, which is the term given to compression of the sciatic nerve. Pain can be felt in the lower back area but also radiates to the buttocks, legs, and feet. Pins and needles may be experienced in the feet and toes.
An osteopath will perform a series of physical and hands-on assessments to determine the location of the disc that is causing your symptoms. Postural and gait analysis may also be carried out to assess the biomechanics of the body.
Spinal manipulation and joint articulation performed by an osteopath can reduce pressure on the disc, decrease pain and increase mobility. At times, people have difficulty doing everyday activities with a disc bulge; so getting you back to your normal routine, and making you stronger is our goal.
Finding relief from a slipped disc can take up to six weeks. Once the initial area is treated, maintenance work may need to be done to support and stabilise the core muscles, and to prevent a relapse. Improvement in biomechanics may also be recommended if you’re compensating by walking or sitting in a certain way to relieve pain.
A slipped disc can be painful but long-term bed rest doesn’t help the healing process. It’s recommended to keep as mobile as possible. You may feel like having a day in bed after taking some anti-inflammatory painkillers; but we recommend to start manual treatment earlier on to speed up your recovery time.
Preventing a disc bulge is not always possible but you can reduce your risk by:
- Using your leg muscles for lifting heavy objects, not your back
- Maintaining a healthy weight to reduce strain on your lower back
- Practicing an improved posture at work and at home
- Sleeping on a firmer mattress and on your side
- Avoiding sitting for long periods of time and stretching often
- Not wearing high-heeled shoes
- Exercising regularly to keep your back and leg muscles strong
- Reducing and eventually quitting smoking
- Having a nutritious, balanced diet
At Relieve Clinic, our team is highly experienced in helping patients with disc bulges and sciatica. To see you achieve a full recovery is our main priority.
We perform a thorough assessment to determine the source(s) of your pain, which will then assist us in reaching a sound diagnosis, and this is what we’ll base our osteopathic treatment techniques on. Each patient’s treatment plan is individualised, and a combination of osteopathic techniques are often necessary to achieve a complete recovery.
Visit our Pricing page for the treatment types we offer.