A slipped disc is a common injury and can be very painful – but how can you avoid getting one? Slipped discs are also known as herniated, prolapsed, bulging or ruptured discs and, despite the name, the disc doesn’t actually slip anywhere. These discs are the cushions which lie between each vertebra, acting as shock absorbers and preventing the bones from grinding together. They are made up of a soft jelly-like interior (nucleus pulposus) and a tough outer layer of collagen called the annulus.
Damage to the annulus allows the nucleus to be forced out through lesions when pressure is put on the vertebrae (for example, by bending forwards). This then can compress the nerves which emerge from between the vertebrae and cause sciatica pain and other symptoms such as pins and needles down the leg, and even a sense of muscle weakness. Some people experience no pain at all from a disc herniation and most will be completely better within six months. Expert treatment and following the advice your chiropractor gives you will speed up the healing process.
Here at Sundial we use special treatment tables to gently decompress the disc, reduce the bulge and relieve the pressure of the nerves. Best of all – it is completely painless.
Why do discs slip?
A single severe strain or repetitive lifting and twisting can cause herniation to a disc, for example, by turning to lift heavy objects. Sadly, however, time isn’t on our side either. As we age, so do our discs. This degeneration is a product of the daily wear and tear of mechanical strains over the course of a lifetime. The ageing of the spine, like everything else, is predetermined to a certain extent by our genetics and begins in the first decades of life. That’s why it’s important to take care of your back by building good habits. Here are some habits and exercises we recommend – and some that we don’t.
How to prevent disc injuries
Avoid bending forwards from the waist, and especially avoid twisting or turning and lifting at the same time. Correct lifting techniques are important. Read our blog for some tips on safe lifting and bending. For the first six weeks after a disc herniation, try to avoid bending and lifting generally. Don’t spend all day sitting down – move gently every half hour or so. If an activity causes pain, don’t do it. Your chiropractor will give you advice on the sorts of exercises you should do – just follow the treatment plan to get better as soon as possible.
Avoid these kinds of exercises:
- twisting exercises such as ‘Russian twists’ and bicycle crunches.
- high impact exercise like jogging or martial arts
- weight training or movements which compress or flex the spine.
Do these exercises instead:
- low impact activities which will help strengthen your core muscles – a strong core will stabilise your lower back and help to avoid injury in the future. Examples of these would be yoga, Pilates and Tai chi;
- gentle resistance exercises (using elastic bands, for example) can be continued as long as they don’t cause too much pain.
Best of all, don’t leave it – come and see a chiropractor for expert advice.