How many times have you heard…..
……somebody say that they have slipped a disc?
I know I’ve heard it a lot and I bet you have too.
But, to say that to someone would give the impression that the disc is a slippery, flimsy object that can slip out at any time…. just like that.
In reality, this does not happen and it is a poor term that has developed over time and people need to be educated on this.
In fact, there are quite a few terms associated with back pain that I have heard that aren’t true, not helpful and do not explain someone’s back problem very well.
For example, disc degeneration can sound like a scary thing but infact most people, over the age of 25, will have some form of disc degeneration. It is a normal part of aging and people can live very normal, active and pain-free lives with so called ‘disc degeneration’.
So what does happen if disc’s don’t slip?
There are quite a few things that can cause back pain and often they are not to do with the disc. ( a little more on this later).
Disc’s are surrounded and held in place by two end plates and they are indeed very sturdy and strong.
The outer layer of the disc can wear with time and sometimes the disc can protrude through the outer layer of the disc.
This is termed a disc bulge and if it impinges on a nerve it will cause a nice bit of pain that may travel down your leg. However, this can reverse over time and disc bulges can in-fact ‘de-bulge’ or go back in.
But the key thing to note here is that your disc is a strong structure and does not just slip in or out like a wet bar of soap.
Because your spinal cord is running up through your spine, it would make sense for your body to want to do its best to protect it.
Therefore there are a lot of nerve endings and receptors around your spine to warn your body if it is under threat.
In a lot of cases, people who suffer with long term back will have very tight muscles around their back and will not bend well from their back.
Often this excessive protective tension in the back, combined with a fear and inability to bend from the lower back can be enough to put extra pressure on the sensitive areas around your spine, like nerve’s and receptors, and this can be a real cause of back pain.
If this ‘movement habit’ continues and persists, along with other things like fear, worry, stress, pain, and beliefs it can be enough to develop into a case of a persistent and troublesome back problem.
But there is light at the end
Can these long term back problems be helped?
Sure they can, it happens every week in my clinic.
With the right approach, the right explanation, the right plan and the right treatment, along with some exercise, desire and a willingness to change from the patient, long-term back problems can be reversed and people can get back to leading fun, active and pain free lives.
At Midlands Physical Therapy I use a Step by Step approach to treating back pain that first involves identifying the true stressor or cause of the back problem.
The next step is a gradual progression of reducing the activity in muscles that are overworking, getting muscles that are under working to perform better, and then loading and progressing movements in a graded way.
Change a few other movement and belief habits that the person will have developed over time and the results are usually very good.
So, if you have been told by your family or friends or even a health care professional that you have a slipped disc and you need to rest or avoid activity, then please seek a second opinion as the treatment for back pain has evolved greatly over the last decade and even persistent long-term back problems can be helped without surgery or dependency on pain-killers.