By Sydney CBD Osteopath Dr Abbey Davidson
In between each spinal bone (vertebra), there is an intervertebral disc which acts as a shock absorber to forces encountered in day to day life. These discs are made up of a gel-like centre (nucleus pulposus) and a rubbery/fibrous outer (annular fibrosis). Due to repetitive stress, anatomical differences or trauma the gel-like centre can bulge through the outer layer, resulting in a Lumbar Disc Lesion, more commonly referred to as a Slipped Disc. In some people this can result in pressure placed on spinal nerves and associated pain, however, others may experience no symptoms at all.
What are the Signs & symptoms of a Slipped Disc?
You may be suffering from a disc lesion if you are experiencing the following symptoms:
- Low back pain
- Pain referring through buttock or posterior thigh/calf/foot
- Numbness, tingling or weakness in the leg
- Aggravation of pain with bending forward and lifting
What can I do ‘right now’ to help with my Slipped Disc?
If you are suffering from a disc lesion, it is important to give the disc an opportunity to heal or re-absorb back to pre-injury state. To encourage this, we advise avoid aggravating activities, especially those in lumbar flexion (i.e. bending forward) or heavy lifting. We do recommend gentle rhythmic lumbar extensions exercises and side-bending towards the painful side (if this does not provoke pain).
If this is a recent injury (within the last 24-48hours), applying an ice pack or cold compression may be useful as this can provide you with some pain relief and keep inflammation to minimum. We advise you not to apply icepacks directly to the skin, but rather by wrapping the ice in a towel and applying it in 20 minute intervals. After the first 48-hour period, you should transition to heat pack application. This encourages the flow of blood and nutrients to the region and decreases muscular guarding.
Anti-inflammatory medication and topical gels may also be indicated in your case, but be sure to your health professional or pharmacist what will work best for you.
Bed rest is generally not indicated for acute low back pain.
For more information on Lumbar Disc Lesions, check out the video below by Sydney CBD Osteopath Dr Abbey Davidson, or click here.
When should I see a health professional for a slipped disc?
- Pain symptoms not improving/getting worse
- Pins, needles, tingles or weakness present for an extended period
- Inability to to perform daily tasks (esp. work or hobbies)
- Bowel or bladder changes
What will a health practitioner do to help with a slipped disc?
In your initial appointment, your health professional will recount the history of your back pain and other symptoms, and will assess the area of pain and perform provocative testing to establish a working diagnosis. In most cases, a quick neurological exam will also be done on your legs to assess strength, sensation and reflexes.
Hand-on treatment will focus on decreasing muscular guarding, increasing range of motion and decompressing the region. Your practitioner will also give you advice and exercises to perform until your next appointment.
For more information on conditions of the Lumbopelvic region, click on the following:
- Lumbopelvic Pain and Complaints
- Piriformis Syndrome
- Sacroiliac Joint (SIJ) Sprain
- Canal Stenosis