Back pain is a very common problem. Unlike other injuries, the basis of back pain could be anything. One minute you watching TV on your couch and then try to get up but you can not because there is a sharp pain in your back. The cause for this pain can be a slipped disc. Slipped disc – also known as herniated or prolapsed disc can cause many problems in every day routine.
The spine is made up of 26 bones. Each bone is called a vertebra which is separated from the other one with a soft jellylike disc. These discs are responsible for the movement of spine without the bones colliding with each other. If any one of these discs slips out of place, the bones collide with each other which causes discomfort and sharp pain.
Nerves from all the parts of the body are connected to the spine. Due to the dislocation of the discs, any nerves nearby might get pinched. Due to this pinching, discomfort is not only limited to the pain in the back but also pain and numbness on one side of the body, pain extending to arms and legs, worsening of the pain at night or during any specific type of movements and muscle weakness.
Signs of a Slipped Disc
The part of the spine where the pain is located can indicate whether you suffer from a slipped disc. The most common area affected by slipped disc is the lower part of the backbone which is also known as the lumbar spine. Due to a slipped disc, the pain radiates all the way down to buttocks, thighs and even calves.
The pain usually aggravates while performing any activities. Even coughing and sneezing can exaggerate your symptoms because it might put pressure on the nerves around the slipped disc that have been pinched. Age can also be a factor as aging decreases the cushioning ability of the discs.
Causes of Slipped Disc
The weakening or tearing of the outer ring allows the inner portion of the disc to slip out. The slipped disc can be due to aging because with the passage of time, the water content in the discs is lost. It can also be due to certain repetitive movements, twisting, turning and lifting large or heavy objects because all of these tasks can put a strain on the lower back. A physically demanding job or being overweight also present a great risk of a slipped or herniated disc.
Diagnosis for a Slipped Disc
Any signs of back pain should be taken very seriously. Therefore, if you suffer from lower back pain that is not going away even after the passage of a few days, you must consult a doctor at once. The doctor will perform a physical exam to locate the source of the pain and discomfort. The doctor will examine the nerve function and muscle strength and also by pressing the affected area to see if you feel pain. All your symptoms and medical history will be taken into account by the doctor which will include the first time you felt the pain and if performing certain tasks causes the pain to worsen. Apart from physical examination the doctor might also perform X-rays, CT scans, MRI scans or discograms. All these examinations and tests will be taken into account to identify the source of the problem.
Preventing a Slipped Disc
Preventing a slipped disc is possible by taking certain steps. These steps include:
- By using the specified safe lifting technique i.e. bending and lifting from knees instead of using back bone.
- Maintaining a healthy weight.
- Avoiding being seated for long periods of times. Stretching periodically.
- Exercising for strengthening of core muscles i-e back, legs and abdomen.
Complications Associated with a Slipped Disc
If the disc is left untreated, it might cause further dislocation of the disc which can cause permanent nerve damage in the affected area. It has been noted that in some cases a severely slipped disc has been responsible for blocking nerve impulses to the lower back and legs. If this happens, an individual might lose bowel or bladder control. Another severe complication is losing sensation in inner thighs, back of the legs and around rectum due to the compression of nerves by a slipped disc.
Treating a Slipped Disc
Slipped disc can disc can either be treated through surgical procedures (risks associated with surgery) or you can treat it using non-surgical procedures that are safer.
Slipped discs are rarely treated through surgery because the risks associated with surgery are immense as the surgery is being done in close proximity of the nerves. The risks
associated are not only of infection, bleeding or reaction to anaesthesia (risks of a normal surgery) because the close proximity of nerves can cause nerve injury, infection and hematoma that might cause nerve pinch. But the patients that cannot be treated without a surgery have to undergo a procedure known as microdiscectomy. This procedure is done with the help of a small incision and using a microscope and the herniated part of the disc and additional fragments are removed that are putting pressure on the spinal nerve. For the rehabilitation process, the patients are instructed to follow a regimen of walking for a certain period of time daily and simple exercises which help in the restoration of strength and flexibility to the back and legs.
Most of the cases are treated non-surgically as the risks involved in surgery are enormous. These treatments include steroid injections in the affected area, Medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen known as NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) and physio therapy.
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