Commonly called "herniated disc" or "ruptured disc" (or misleadingly called "slipped disc"), one of the common conditions we treat at Axis Physical Therapy is disc prolapse. The spinal column is made up of a number of bones called vertebrae. Between these vertebrae are discs which prevent the bones from rubbing against each other during movement and act as shock absorbers during impact.
In the lumbar spine (lower back), the discs are composed of a fibrous outer layer and a gel-like inner layer. When the outer layer becomes worn through overuse or injury, the inner layer can leak or "prolapse" out of the disc and into the spinal canal where it can irritate the nerve roots of the spinal nerves thus causing significant pain. The pain may be from the compression on these spinal nerves from the disc or from chemical irritation to the nerves because of the leaked disc contents.
Usually the outer layer of the disc is gradually damaged over time due to overuse and this can be caused from prolonged periods of repetitive lifting, bending or twisting actions. Sometimes all it then takes is a sudden, forceful movement (such as bending down to pick something up, turning suddenly or a coughing fit) to put too much strain on an already weakened disc and cause severe pain. Sometimes with the associated nerve compression, weakness and reduced sensation can be felt along the length of the nerve, usually down the buttock or leg. This is known as sciatic pain and can be very intense.
In the acute stages of a disc prolapse, bed rest in a comfortable position is recommended and sitting should be avoided.
An early visit to your physical therapist is critical in repairing the disc and relieving pain. At Axis Physical Therapy we will perform a thorough assessment without aggravating your pain and we will then apply pain relieving modalities such as heat packs or ultrasound. The next step will be very gentle joint mobilization and exercises to reduce stiffness, restore mobility and promote healing of the damaged disc as well as massage and trigger point therapy if there is surrounding muscle spasm. We quite often apply strapping to the lower back to relieve pressure and pain.
Once healing begins to take place, we will tailor a graduated exercise program that suits your needs and lifestyle. Core strengthening exercises that tighten the abdominal wall and deep lower back stabilizing muscles are beneficial in protecting the discs from re-injury and are usually recommended to promote good posture and restore normal function. Education in proper body mechanics such as lifting, bending and work habits is vital in preventing a recurrence of the injury.
For effective treatment of your disc prolapse injury in Salinas, call us at Axis Physical Therapy.
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