Monday, July 18, 2011

Understand Back Pain from Herniated Discs

When back pain is your everyday companion, you tend to look at every possible problem as the cause of your pain. Inherently, we want to understand what’s going on in our bodies, so it’s a normal tendency to look at any back pain diagnosis you see or read as the culprit. Of course, words like sciatica, lumbago and slipped disc are a part of the mix whenever we think of back pain, so it’s not unexpected to assume that’s what’s at the heart of the matter. However, who’s to say? And what do those “buzz words” mean to you for finding relief and getting back to normal, pain-free living? As you may or may not know, all three of these things can be related; a so-called “slipped” disc, actually called a disc herniation or disc prolapse, may lead to sciatica and lumbago (lower back pain). Why don’t we break it down a little so we can understand what’s the real reason for pain?

There are a number of factors that might increase the likelihood of a herniated disc, many of which are common sense and others which may not be so much. Let’s review a couple.

Firstly, of course, is age. As we get older, our spinal discs tend to hold water less efficiently, so the discs degenerate. It’s a natural part of aging, but it can be a big problem - the water and fluid inside of a disc is a big part of the reason it is able to function effectively as a shock absorber. Without, the fluid, trauma and injury can have a much more significant impact.

Next is genetics. It sort of goes without saying that if there is a history of back problems in your family, your chances of running into the same in your lifetime are greater. That being said, there are estimates around that approximately 80% of Americans will suffer from acute or chronic back pain at some point in their lives, so maybe back pain is more scripted into our lifestyle choices? Which leads us to...

...Exercise habits and body weight. This has a lot to do with what your body can handle. If you are significantly overweight, the load you place on your spine each and every day is greater than what it is designed to bear. The added strain can make disc herniation more likely. Exercising the muscles that support the spine and general exercises can have a major positive impact on the health of the back, effectively acting as a preventative measure.

Lastly, and perhaps most overlooked for its straightforwardness, is your work. Do you have a job that requires extreme strain to the back with regular heavy lifting? Or at the other extreme, do you have a job that keeps you stuck in a chair for hours on end? On the hand, the harsh physical job can cause herniation because of the hard work that is constantly demanded from the back. On the other hand, not using your back can lead the muscles that support it to atrophy. It’s important to consider these factors in examining your back pain and understanding its true source.

All this is great to know, but the fact is, if you’re in pain, you need help! Here at Living Well Medical in Downtown NYC, we help patients with herniated discs all the time. By combining several non-surgical techniques and treatments, we give patients the best chance of returning to active living without pain (and without resorting to riskier methods!). If you have back pain and need help, call today at 212-645-8151.

- Dr. Shoshany, NYC Chiropractor