It can hit you all of a sudden with the pain of your disc herniating, bulging, or degenerating. The pain can come on very suddenly, you may only notice numbness or tingling. We are going to cover the three reasons why discs have injuries and how to avoid a scary surgery. My name’s Dr. Isaac Mooberry with Lifetime Wellness and Chiropractic here in Denver, CO.
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I had a disc injury about 10 years ago, I’d already been a chiropractor for five years and I developed a severe episode of low back pain. It went down my leg, I had numbness and tingling in my lower legs and into my feet. I was in bad shape, I could barely get my shoes and my pants on. I couldn’t play with my daughter. I could barely do anything to help out around the house. I was very concerned for my future. Could I continue to be a chiropractor? Could I continue to help people the way I wanted too? Did I need to have surgery? I didn’t want any medication or a surgery, but this continued for six weeks. Until, I changed how I was taking care of myself. That opened the door for me to help change the way I was taking care of my patients and clients. It has been over 10 years and I’ve not had another episode like that at all, not even close. This experience helped shape how I help my clients. There are three main types of disc injuries.
First is a degenerative disc where the padding between two bones(vertebrae) in the spine gets thinner and thinner and thinner. This can even become bone on bone where the body fuses together trying to stabilize itself. This is an issue that’s typically associated with past injuries. The bottom line is that your body is compensating by preventing itself from being able to move the way it’s designed to. This provides the environment allowing that disc to get thinner, thinner, thinner, and thinner until BOOM, you have pain come out of nowhere. I’ve seen people where the disc has pretty much disintegrated and there is nothing left and they are fused together. They report having no significant symptoms leading up to their current episode. Sometimes they report they had some stiffness, but this is a subtle symptom. Symptoms are telling us that hey, there’s something going on with our body and we need to get it checked out. But frequently we wait for the symptoms that scream loudly at us before we do something about our problem.
The second issue is the bulging disc. Instead of the disc having nice and smooth sides, it actually gets a bulge and it puts pressure on the nerves that come out of the spine from the spinal cord. This can happen from lack of movement. Maybe it’s poor posture, repetitive poor ergonomics, being hunched over on your computer typing away or being on devices, looking down at your phone or looking down at your monitor. So those are some of the ways that the stress on the disc gets changed and goes to the front. Which causes it to want to push back and bulge towards where the spinal cord is in the back. It can also go towards the nerve roots as well. These bulges can also be from a slip and fall type of injury or lifting too much weight.
The third type of issue is the disc herniation. This happens when the jelly material inside the disc pops out of the smooth edge rupturing the outside of the disc. This material can go in all different directions, towards the front, to the side, or it could go towards the back of the vertebrae. This is where the spinal cord is and this can definitely cause excruciating pain, stabbing pain, shooting pain, numbness and tingling into the arms or legs. This can be the cause of sciatica into your butt, hips, legs or feet and could cause numbness, tingling in the saddle region in the crotch. This is an urgent issue if there is numbness and tingling in the crotch area you need to go to the ER ASAP. The issue with the herniated disc is the disc can actually become free of itself and start floating around. That’s definitely something that can be very severe and cause significant symptoms that can fluctuate drastically. MRIs can be very helpful with determining what extent the disc is injured. However, a majority of times you don’t have to have an MRI until you have tried conservative care first. You may need an x-ray as a first line of imaging, so we can get an idea of what’s going on with the spinal structure. Disc herniations happen when you overload the disc. It could come from poor repetitive ergonomics, slip and fall type injuries, whiplash injuries.
3 Ways to Avoid Serious Surgery
What can you do though to help avoid these three types of disc injuries: disc degeneration, disc bulge, and disc herniation?
The first one is you definitely want to get movement. Every day you want to get up and move, get a brisk walk for 15 minutes a day and avoid sitting more than 60 minutes at a time. Bedrest is typically not an ideal scenario for your body, it’s meant to move. If your body’s not moving, it’s degenerating, which means it’s decaying. So, get your movement. There are certain movements that, if you’re in an acute situation, can be very helpful. There’s centralizing exercises that you can do to help decrease your pain. For example, if I was to have pain in my neck, I might find a combination of movements where I put my hand up on top of my head, leaning my head back and looking to the side. If that’s bringing me relief, you would want to repeat that movement 10 times an hour as long as it feels helpful. You want to find relieving positions and movements to help take that stress off that nerve and disc to help allow your body to rest and recover. Putting a pillow(try 1 or even 2) underneath your knees when you’re going to sleep on your back, that will take a lot of pressure off your lower back, if you’re having low back issues. I did that for myself and it was very helpful.
The second is strengthening exercises that you can do to ensure that you have better posture. When you’re standing up, the center of your ear, center of shoulder, center of hip, and then your ankle bone should all be lined up in a vertical line. If you’re sitting, then it’s the center of your ear, center of shoulder, center of hip that you want to have lined up to have an ideal center of gravity and posture.
The third one is chiropractic that can help restore balance to the body when it’s out of balance and there is a lack of movement in the spine. Imbalance can occur very easily just from poor ergonomics or repetitive stresses. If you were to put your feet on two scales, one on each one, you are more than likely going to see that there’s a discrepancy. One side’s going to weigh more. Imagine if you’re walking around day in and day out, exercising, doing everything you do and you have this imbalance. One side’s going to wear down much quicker. If your hips are out of balance, one side’s going to wear down much quicker and it’s gonna create a problem commonly in the discs. This type of problem in the discs can feel like it just happens without a warning, but in reality it has been building for years. I’ve seen it happen to myself. I’ve seen it happen to other people.
I’ve been there, this has happened to me, I understand what it is like. I want to let you know what the options are so you can avoid drugs and surgeries. I want to see you be your best and be able to do the things that are meaningful to you.
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