Discs are cartilaginous structures that separate vertebrae, the bones of the spine. They act as spinal shock absorbers. Just as shocks can blow out in a car, so can the discs in your back. As we age, our discs lose the ability to stay as hydrated and “cushy,” thus they lose height and the spaces between the vertebrae diminish, placing us at increased risk for being injured.
When the outer layer of the disc is torn, it bulges out to one side. This is a herniated disc. A herniated disc can put pressure on nerves and cause moderate to severe pain that can result in inability to do basic tasks such as sleeping, dressing, or returning to work.
A herniated disc is often preceded by an activity that requires bending over and twisting. Though sometimes the cause is unknown and may be due to age-related changes in the spine. It causes sharp pain in the back and can cause buttock and leg pain. It is usually aggravated with coughing, sneezing, bending over, and prolonged sitting. Some people experience numbness and tingling in the back or buttock and leg that is accompanied by weakness.
What to expect at therapy
A therapist will perform a comprehensive evaluation of the spine including your range of motion, flexibility, strength, sensation, and posture. The therapist will discuss your goals and aim to get you pain relief for day to day activities and back to the activities you’re missing such as recreation or work. Treatments may include the use of therapeutic modalities, hands-on manual therapy techniques, posture education, therapeutic exercise, and instruction in safe lifting.