What are the types of herniated disc? What are some of the causes and symptoms? How can you treat them yourself ?
Your spine is made up of many vertebrae stacked on top of one another. The vertebrae have fibrocartilage (intervertebral discs) in between them to cushion them. These intervertebral discs act as shock absorbers to protect your bones from everyday impacts. If they begin to wear, it can cause pain. Many people say they experience it as discomfort that radiates down to their legs and causes numbness.
If we want to understand how a herniated disc can occur, we first need to take a look at how the discs are structured. Intervertebral discs connect the individual vertebrae of your spine. They each have an outer fibrous ring (annulus fibrosus) and a gel-like core (nucleus pulposus). Their role is to cushion impact and enable your spine to move in all directions.
Disc bulging and herniated discs are most common in the lumbar spine region between the fourth and fifth lumbar vertebrae (L4/L5), and between the fifth lumbar vertebra and the first sacral vertebra (L5/S1). Be sure not to confuse a herniated disc (disc prolapse) with disc bulging (disc protrusion): with disc bulging, the outer fibrous ring is still intact but the gel-like core has shifted outward. The transition between a herniated disc and a disc protrusion is fluid, and even medical experts may struggle to distinguish between them.
The symptoms of a herniated disc vary depending on where in the spine it occurs. If the herniated disc is in your lumbar spine, you’ll usually get severe and sudden back pain. Every movement is excruciating and makes your pain worse. Your body will go into a protective posture, while your muscles will harden and feel stiff. A herniated disc in your cervical spine, is usually accompanied by discomfort in your neck. You’ll often be holding your neck at an angle and be in pain, which might radiate to your arms or the back of your head.
The most common herniated disc symptoms:
Age-related degeneration of intervertebral discs and poor weight distribution on the spine first causes disc bulging (disc protrusion) and ultimately results in a herniated disc. If the spine is angled forward and then rotates, this can cause damage. Lifting heavy loads exacerbates the imbalanced weight distribution on your spine. If you lift drink crates from your car with your legs stretched and your back bent, you’re not doing your back any favors. The shearing forces working in opposite directions start destroying the healthy fibrous rings around your discs. The gel core can then start to leak out.
A herniated disc isn’t always the cause of your pain – that means surgery or injections will only offer slight or temporary relief. But you can reduce the pain by treating the tension imbalances in your muscles and fascia in a targeted way.
“Despite common misconceptions, the herniated disc is not usually the root cause of the problem; it is the painful tightening of the muscle fascia. Here, the right therapeutic support combined with special exercises at home can achieve great results. This should be favored over disc surgery, the benefit of which is usually questionable.”
Many people say that doctors are too quick to turn to surgery. Yet conservative, targeted treatment can help with a herniated disc and alleviate the pain. This is often much more effective and brings longer-lasting results than surgery.
What’s important for this treatment to work? Your own dedication and time. If you want to become pain-free, the most important things are motivation and patience. This might reassure you: after three months, most patients turn the corner.
Remember: avoid prolonged inactivity, even if moving is uncomfortable for you. Ideally, you should keep going with your everyday activities. Is your pain so severe that you can barely stand it? In that case, medicines to relax your muscles, or heat therapy, can help at the beginning. Talk to your doctor if you think this applies to you.
Many doctors recommend the following pose: lie down on the floor on your back and raise your lower leg to a 90-degree angle, supporting it on a suitable object or furniture. Don’t stay in this position for too long. Our tip: do this exercise every day for a maximum of five minutes.
Are you halfway to being pain-free? That means you’re ready to start treating muscle and fascia tightness in your back.
If you’re looking for a lasting improvement, you’ll need to make some changes. You ultimately want to get rid of the causes that led to your herniated disc.
Here’s how you can prevent a herniated disc in the long term:
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