Bulging, slipped, herniated or even ruptured discs can occur when there is significant trauma to the back or due to gradual wear and tear over time. Whatever the cause, treating the injury and associated pain is crucial. If you have suffered a ruptured or herniated disk, here are some tips for pain management.
Note: Any injuries affecting your spine should be managed properly, not just for your quality of life and pain relief, but as prevention from much more serious issues.
Ruptured or herniated disc?
Your spine is made from interconnecting bones, known as vertebrae, that run from the base of your skull down to the bottom of your hips.
Sitting between these bones are circular pads of fibrous cartilage called discs.
These discs act to cushion and guide movement between each vertebrae, ensuring even distribution of movement and reduced pressure on the sensitive spinal column.
When these discs are put under too much strain, they can start to bulge or even slip, putting increased pressure on the nerves in your spine, inflaming the surrounding muscles and causing more bone on bone pressure within the spine itself.
This all can lead to severe pain, stiffness, reduced mobility and nerve problems.
Learn more: Sciatica: What is it and how to treat it.
Tips for pain management
The vast majority of disc issues occur in the lower back, just around the lumbar region. This area of the spine is what normally bears weight and so is most prone to strain.
Pain caused by this issue often radiates around the spine, moving up and down, and can cause nerve pain shooting down the leg in a symptom known as sciatica.
There are four main ways to manage this pain effectively
1. Unload the back
Taking pressure off the disc is one of the best ways to provide immediate and long-lasting relief.
This is done by reducing the pressure on the area itself, effectively creating more space between each vertebrae.
To unload the spine effectively you need a back brace designed to do so. The ideal unloading back support will have the following features:
- Consistent pressure and support from front, back and sides.
- Physical unloading of the joint itself at the point targeted (EG if it’s a lower disc, something that unloads the pelvis).
- Contoured to your anatomy so there’s no excessive pressure in one particular spot.
Featured above: LumboTrain Lady
2. Provide stabilisation
Stabilising the back and spine means reducing the amount of errant movement (bending too far, twisting and rotating etc).
This can be done in a range of ways, including
- Using a stabilising back brace.
- Ensuring your daily environment at work and home is ergonomically designed to reduce spinal strain.
- Rest in between physical tasks to reduce the strain and give your muscles time to recover.
3. Strengthen the back
A strong back is hard to break, and keeping the muscles surrounding your lower spine, particularly the area affected by a slipped disc, will help to protect it from further injury.
Strengthening exercises that target the core and lumbar muscles as well as the glutes are ideal.
If you’re managing pain or an injury, it’s best to do any type of exercise under the guidance of a physiotherapist, and while wearing a back support.
Often pain management requires medication to reduce the more severe symptoms.
Using anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen can help, and in more severe cases your doctor can prescribe something stronger.
However these should only be used when necessary, and excessive use can mask the core symptoms and risk further damage, as well as side-effects from over-medication.
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