So, you keep getting back ache?
Let’s do a quick assessment on your lower back…
- Does your back seize up when you try to touch your toes?
- Do you have a sharp pain across your lower back?
- Have you hurt your back when lifting, twisting or prolonged sitting?
If you answered YES to the above questions, it is likely that you have strained the back of your disc.
Don’t panic! Some information on the internet can be really scary, but this article will help you understand what is going on with the disc.
A Brief Anatomy of Your Disc
From the side view of your spine, we can see alternating levels of bones (vertebral bodies) and discs (intervertebral discs). Let’s look at the disc from the top view. A disc is composed of a tough and strong collagen ring encircling a soft gel-like structure. The gel is rich in water, which maintains the height of the disc.
The function of the disc is like a cushion and includes:
- Absorbing the load of your weight
- Acting as a “pivot point” from which all movement of the lower back occurs.
What Has Happened to the Disc When the Disc Is Injured?
When you have strained the back of your disc, the gel has been pushed to the back of the disc by repetitive mechanical loading applied to the front of the disc – this occurs when we bend forward, sit or slouch.
The pressure exerted by the disc on the ligaments and surrounding structures and the irritation caused by the local inflammation result in localised back pain. If the nearby spinal nerve roots are involved, you may experience some nerve symptoms (numbness or tingling) travelling down the leg.
The terms describing the disc sound scary…
You may have heard a variety of terms describing disc injuries, including bulging, protruding, herniated, slipped and ruptured. While often times these terms are used interchangeably on the internet, THEY ARE NOT THE SAME.
Long Story Short
A bulging disc refers to the gel extending beyond its space, whereas a herniated disc refers to the gel protruding or displaced from the disc.
The good news is that this only occurs in less than 5 % of patients!
Most patients are diagnosed with a bulging disc which is the least severe and does not require any surgical intervention. However, if the issue is left unchecked, the disc will deteriorate.
Why Has It Happened to the Disc?
No matter if it is your first lower back injury or this is a recurring lower back injury, it is always the result of one or a combination of the following contributing factors:
As we age, there is a natural degeneration process of the disc which may predispose the discs to injury. The disc dehydrates over time, which weakens its shock-absorbing ability. Therefore, it becomes more vulnerable to mechanical stress.
2. Ineffective Core Control
The core muscles (highlighted in red below) act like an in-built corset extending from the lower back to the abdomen. They are designed to stabilise and support the spine – when your core muscles are not activating, more loading is applied to the disc.
3. Reduced Joint Mobility
Having a stiff lower back limits the ability of the disc to move the gel in different directions, leading to excessive force applied on the front of the disc.
Stuck hips also weaken the gluteal muscles which are designed to provide stability and strength to the lumbopelvic area, resulting in increasing compensation and biomechanical force on the disc.
4. Poor Techniques of Squat or Deadlift
Our body is designed to move and we are repetitively doing squats and deadlifts in our daily life. However, a suboptimal pattern of movement usually leads to stuck joints and ineffective core, resulting in the deterioration of the disc.
Do I Need to Get a Scan?
Routine imaging is not generally recommended unless the“red flag” symptoms are present.
Some reasons why we don’t recommend a scan immediately is:
- Physiotherapists can often assess and diagnose disc injuries without the need for scans
- Scans may show age-related changes to the spine which may not correlate with your pain
- Results from scans have been shown to increase patient anxiety due to misinterpretation of results, which can increase pain levels
- Scans are expensive and time consuming if not necessary
If you suspect that you may be suffering from a disc injury, the best bet is to come and see us for an assessment with one of our Physiotherapists, who can assess, diagnose and discuss a treatment plan.
Want To Know More?
We’d suggest contacting our team at Precision Physio, so that we can help you with your individual case and if you’ve been injured, your recovery.
How Do I Book An Appointment?
We’re taking the health of our clients, members and staff very seriously and our preference would be for you to call to book an appointment so that we can make sure to explain our approach to keeping you safe. You can call any of these numbers to schedule a session:
- Precision Physio Concord: 02 9736 3950
- Precision Physio St Marys: 02 9623 2220
- Precision Physio Mt Druitt: 02 9188 2552
Evolving with the current environment, we are also now offering online appointments, meaning that we can support anyone who is unable to leave their home. Sessions are done via our state of the art Telehealth system and as long as you have a laptop or tablet with an inbuilt camera, or a phone with camera, we can help!
To learn more about online consultations, please call us on any of the numbers listed above.