LOW BACK PAIN INFORMATION
Do you need surgery for a “disc injury”?
Discs can be described as round cushions or shock absorbers that are situated between the bones of your spine. They allow you to be able to twist, bend and move your spine without the bones hitting or rubbing off each other. The term “disc injury” quite often refers to when a disc “herniates” and presses against a neighbouring nerve. The interesting thing about “herniated discs” is that a lot of people have them. Does this mean that all these people will experience pain due to this disc herniation? The straight forward answer is no, a person will not typically feel any symptoms of pain unless the disc is pressing against a nerve. When the disc presses against the nerve this can cause symptoms of pain, numbness, tingling and muscle weakness. They are nothing to fear or be afraid of, they are completely normal and most people will experience it at least once in their life time.
In all cases, surgery should be considered as a last resort. More often than not you can relieve a disc herniation symptoms through active exercise and Physical Therapy. Active exercise and Physical Therapy can help stabilize weak areas, correct biomechanics and take the pressure off the specific area that is causing you problems. This is a non-invasive method that has shown to have similar pain relief results to surgery. Surgery can cost a lot of money but also has a number of side effects and risks such as– infection, damage to nerves or blood vessels, potential problem with new disc and spinal cord fluid leaks.
The main reason why disc herniations occur is because of prolonged positions and poor ergonomics. Prolonged positions and poor repetitive mechanics are often seen in desk based work, putting office workers at a higher risk of developing back pain. A good strategy to help prevent this nerve irritation is to get up and walk around the office every 45 minutes to an hour to promote blood flow to the nerve and reduce compression. Adjusting your chair and changing your sitting position can also be effective. Remember that your body is built to move and if it isn’t allowed to move sometimes it will kick up a fuss. Surgery or medication can seem like the quick fix but it really isn’t.
Exercises prescribed by your Physical Therapist can have an immediate effect on your pain by addressing the root cause of the problem; this form of treatment will save you money and make you a healthier stronger person. A Physical Therapist can also explain to you why you are feeling the pain and give you a plan to help prevent the problem from reoccurring. In many cases, the people who have undergone disc surgeries will have to take around 2-4 weeks off work to recover. On the other hand active exercise and Physical Therapy could have you moving and back to work in half the time and at a fraction of the cost. It is extremely important to explore all your options before going for surgery, you may be surprised at what your body can do and how quickly it can recover.
Written by Turlough O’hEocha BSc. MSc.