Chronic back pain is one of the most common reasons patients come to see our physical therapist. In fact, it’s the most common cause of pain in the United States. Back pain can be caused by a variety of medical disorders, but herniated discs are the most common cause.
It is estimated that about 60-80% of people will experience some level of lower back pain in their lives, and many may experience the issue due to a herniated disc.
Herniated discs can occur anywhere along the spine, but they are most common in the lower back. Other terminology for a herniated disc that physical therapy patients may be familiar with include “protruding disc,” “ruptured disc,” and “bulging disc.”
Nevertheless, the treatment for a herniated disc remains the same. While they can be very painful, our licensed physical therapists can help patients of all ages find fast relief and learn to manage their pain with regular physical therapy appointments.
Signs you may have a herniated disc
Symptoms associated with a herniated disc may vary, depending on where the injured disc is located. Some of the most common symptoms people experience with a herniated disc include:
- Numbness, tingling, or burning in the back, buttock, legs, and/or feet.
- Weakness in the legs.
- Pain when bending or twisting.
- Pain that intensifies when bending, sitting, coughing, or sneezing.
You may have a herniated disc if you are experiencing any or all of these symptoms. Physical therapy, fortunately, can help relieve pain caused by a herniated disc or any other type of back discomfort.
To treat the discomfort before it worsens, we recommend scheduling an appointment with one of our physical therapists as soon as possible.
Reasons for herniated discs
When you are young, your spinal discs have a high water-content level, made up of almost 80% water. However, as you age, the water content in your spinal discs lowers. This causes the discs to become less pliable, thus increasing the risk of tears or other defects.
Spinal discs are soft, rubbery cushions that sit between the bony vertebrae that help to support the spine. They’re made up of a thick cartilage outer ring and an interior gel-like substance that acts as a shock absorber. Your spinal discs assist in protecting your spinal cord and the delicate nerves in your back by allowing you to bend your back easily.
If the cartilage in your spinal disc somehow tears or develops a defect, the inner gel-like substance, also known as the “nucleus,” can break through. This bulging or herniation can then put pressure on the nerves, resulting in intense pain. In fact, even small amounts of pressure on your spinal nerves can cause pain, numbness, or weakness.
Herniated discs in the lower back can be especially painful because they press against the sciatic nerve, causing sciatica. The sciatic nerve is made up of many spinal nerve branches that run down the leg from the spine. Pain can spread from the buttocks area, down the back of the leg, and into the shin and foot if the sciatic nerve is pinched. Fortunately, physical therapy can help to alleviate the discomfort produced by this illness.
Some of the other common causes of herniated discs include:
- Traumatic injury.
- Repetitive twisting movements.
- Heavy or incorrect lifting.
- Excessive body weight or obesity.
- High-impact sports.
How does physical therapy decrease herniated disc pain?
Physical therapy is a pain treatment option that is both safe and non-invasive, and it is meant to help patients of all ages heal from the inside out.
Our expert physical therapists can ease back pain, reduce inflammation, boost blood flow, and restore range of motion by applying tailored physical therapy treatments.
A physical therapist’s active treatments address joint mobility, stability, flexibility, strength, and posture. To strengthen the back muscles, a physical therapist will teach you core stabilizing exercises.
To improve and condition the body, you’ll also participate in body muscle exercises. In addition, you will be taught flexibility exercises and proper strengthening techniques by a physical therapist.
If you have back pain, know that you can turn to physical therapy for help. A physical therapist will do a comprehensive exam and review your medical history to determine if you have a herniated disc. Once a proper diagnosis is made, a physical therapist will then create and implement a personalized treatment plan targeted to the affected area.
Get to the root of your pain today
If you’re living with back pain, know that you’re not alone. There are treatment options available to help you! Call our office today to schedule an appointment with one of our knowledgeable and highly-trained physical therapists, and learn more about how our services can benefit you.