Herniated discs are a very common cause of back pain. While there are a number of very effective treatment possibilities available to those suffering from this condition, preventing herniated discs is the best option.
A herniated disc is a bulge or tear in the ligament that connects two vertebrae in the spine. This injury usually occurs as a result of an injury or degenerative disc disease caused by the aging process. The herniated disc will cause pressure on spinal nerves causing pain. Discomfort can range from mild to severe pain and may last for weeks or months.
Symptoms of herniated discs include:
• Neck, shoulder, arm, leg, foot, groin, buttock, back, lower back, hip, and/or sacroiliac joint pain
• Numbness or tingling in the hands, feet, or extremities
• Weakness in the legs or arms
• Difficulty walking
Common treatments include physical therapy, pain medication, and steroid injections. While these treatment options among others are excellent options it is best to avoid this type of injury in the first place.
In this article, we will explore the ways in which you can prevent herniated discs as you age.
Why Do Older People Suffer from Herniated Discs?
Older individuals are more at risk of herniated discs for multiple reasons. First among them is aging. As we age, the intervertebral discs, which act as cushions between the vertebrae, lose their integrity. This makes it easier for discs to become herniated.
Older individuals are also at higher risk for falls which can damage the spine resulting in herniated discs.
Muscle mass commonly lessens with age as well. This greatly increases the risks of spinal injury and disc herniation because the muscles that run parallel to the spinal column are responsible for keeping it stable. When the spine loses this stability it is at a greater risk of injury.
Additionally, certain habits that one may pick up over their lifetime can greatly increase the chance of disc herniation. This might include poor posture, inactivity, and smoking.
Luckily, there are activities and precautions you can take to prevent herniated discs as you age.
How to Avoid Getting a Herniated Disc?
These suggestions for preventing herniated discs can be undertaken by anyone of any age. It is always important to take care of your spine and health.
Practice proper posture
Proper posture is important for preventing back injuries including herniated discs.
To maintain proper posture stand as upright as possible, relax your shoulders, and gently engage your core muscles (abdominal muscles.)
If you spend most of your day sitting down, make sure to get up every hour or so to stretch your body. Stretching helps keep your joints flexible and prevents muscle stiffness. Taking brief walking breaks is also advised.
Avoid lifting overly heavy objects and ask for assistance whenever possible. If you must lift something heavy on your own, bend your knees. This movement will help you rely on your leg muscles rather than your back while lifting. This will help prevent back strain and injury.
When sitting at a desk, keep your back straight and avoid slouching. If you must sit for long periods of time, try to stand up every hour or two. It is a good idea to perform some gentle stretches when taking breaks from sitting.
Maintain a healthy weight
Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best tips for preventing herniated discs.
Individuals who carry excess weight in their abdominal region place a lot of undue stress on their lumbar spine. If you are overweight, any weight loss will help decrease this spinal stress.
There is no need to be overly aggressive with weight loss. With a small calorie deficit, you can lose weight sensibly and keep it off. Speak with your primary care physician about calculating your daily caloric needs.
What's more, if you have been diagnosed with diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, osteoporosis, sleep apnea, depression, anxiety, or other medical conditions, losing any weight could improve these conditions.
Exercise is also essential for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight and building the muscles that support the spine.
Perform regular exercise
Regular physical activity has been shown to reduce the chances of developing herniated discs. Exercise strengthens the muscles surrounding the spine and improves balance. Regularly performing exercises such as walking, yoga, swimming and biking keeps your body strong and also reduces the likelihood of falling.
Exercises should not be limited to targeting the back muscles. The goal of any exercise program should be for total body conditioning. Core muscles can sometimes be overlooked as a target of an exercise regime for supporting the spine. But, these muscles are very important as they stabilize the back and enable proper posture. Glute muscles are also essential in providing back support.
Higher-impact activities like running and jumping are not advised for individuals who are already experiencing degenerative disc disease or have a history of herniated discs. The impact of these exercises can exacerbate symptoms.
Be sure to take into account any pre-existing medical conditions you may have before starting an exercise program. Speak with your doctor to discuss what forms of exercise will be best for you.
When exercising take care not to force any movements. This might result in injury. As well, if you experience any pain stop what you are doing and opt for more gentle activities.
Also, be sure to wear shoes that are appropriate for the exercise you are performing. This will help you maintain proper posture as you move. As well, some exercise footwear includes shock absorbers which help prevent some of the jarring motions that occur during exercise.
Smokers are at a greater risk of developing herniated discs. If you are a smoker, consider stopping as soon as possible.
Additionally, quitting smoking could improve your overall health by reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Risky Daily Activities
Sitting for long periods and performing activities where you are bending, twisting, and lifting are the most likely to cause back injuries.
Take extra care not to overexert yourself when performing these activities as they can be stressful on the spine. If you already have herniated discs consider asking for assistance with these tasks.
– Loading and unloading washers and dryers
– Feeding and washing pets
All of these chores require movements that may cause excessive strain on the spine. By no means are these chores unsafe but they do run the risk of injury because of the nature of the work. Being mindful of your movement while doing these tasks can go a long way in preventing herniated discs and other injuries.
These recommendations will aid you in preventing herniated discs. Still, there is always a risk that they will occur. If you find yourself suffering from a herniated disc there a many treatment options available to you. Nonsurgical treatment options include:
– Physical therapy- This involves working with a trained professional to strengthen the core muscles around the spine and improve flexibility. It helps prevent future problems and provides relief during recovery.
– Steroid injections- These involve injecting cortisone directly into the affected area. This reduces inflammation and relieves some of the discomfort associated with the condition. However, it does come with side effects such as bruising and swelling.
– Pain medications- Used to treat acute episodes of low back pain. Options include over-the-counter anti-inflammatories like acetaminophen or prescription pain medications. These medicines come with their own set of risks so be sure to speak with a professional before taking them, especially for extended periods.
– Radiofrequency ablation- A minimally invasive procedure used to relieve chronic lower back pain caused by degenerative changes within the spinal column. The procedure uses heat energy to destroy nerve endings responsible for transmitting pain signals.
In mild cases, rest and the application of heating pads to the affected area can be sufficient treatment. More severe and persistent cases that do not respond to nonsurgical treatment options might need more invasive treatment including surgery.
When to See a MidSouth Pain Doctor for Herniated Disc Treatment?
If you are experiencing neck pain, pain in your low back, or pain that causes numbness and weakness in your arms or legs that interferes with your daily life, you may be suffering from a herniated disc.
The pain management experts at MidSouth Pain will create a treatment plan that will help treat your pain allowing you to heal more comfortably.