When we are talking about a herniated disc (or bulging disc)... if you took a hundred people without back pain and they all got an MRI, about 80% of those people would have a bulging disc or a disc herniation on their MRI imaging report. But, why don't they have pain?
Another question is - How does a herniated disc work and what can I do about it?
The graphic image here shows 2 bones and these bones are vertebrae in your lower back (lumbar spine). The top bone is L4 and the bottom bone is L5. In between L4 and L5 is your disc. The disc is made of dynamic material that allows you to move around and also helps as a cushion and shock absorber.
Running right down through this is your spinal cord. In between each level of bone vertebrae, there is a space (exit hole called a foramen) where a nerve root and nerve passes from the spinal cord through this space. As you can see in the image here, the disc is next to this exit hole space where the nerve passes from the spinal cord and out of the back area.
The middle part of your disc is a jelly-like core called the nucleus pulposus, while the outer area is softer, spongier, and a toothpaste-like consistency that allow our spines to bend, twist, and move in most directions. The very outer layer of the disc is a network of collagen fibers like a wicker weave. These fibers are termed the annulus fibrosus.
How does a normal disc get injured and become a disc herniation? First, what happens is you just get a little disc bulge. The disc pushes out the back and bulge out. Very rarely will this cause pain.
If it progresses further, the next level is a disc herniation. And, that's where the fibers actually start to tear and the disc material, that toothpaste-like substance begins to push out through those fibers. So, you're getting even more pressure of the edge of the herniated disc putting pressure on the nerve.
As this happens, with more disc pressure on the nerve, it can send sharp shooting pain down the back side of your leg (as well as numbness or tingling or a burning sensation).
For most people with a true disc herniation and nothing else going on, when they bend forward, the pain will stop them in their tracks... they may have trouble breathing (like being caught by surprise)... And, regarding their sharp, shooting pain down the back of their leg - they'll be able to trace it along the back of their leg. They will be able to show and describe a specific and particular path of the sharp shooting pain going down the back side of the leg. That's called sciatica.
So, a herniated disc is a major cause of lower back pain, as well as a cause of sciatica. Therefore, what we want to do is move that disc material forward and off the nerve. This process is called decompression, which basically is "unkinking a kinked garden hose."
Now, can a herniated disc heal?
From our experience in our practice, Concierge Pain Relief, and also what the research shows is "Yes" - it is possible to heal a herniated disc.
For some odd reason, many New Yorkers do not believe that it's possible. But, it is possible. It just takes a little bit of work and a little bit of know-how, but it's very possible.
Now, to reverse and fix a herniated disc, we perform hands-on manual therapy, comfortable spinal mobilizations, and other pain-free techniques or decompression drills and exercises. When we do so, one of the common things we will instruct our patients and clients to do is showing them a back bend (arching backwards). What this is doing is that it's pushing all of that material forward which allows us to:
1.) Take pressure off the nerve, 2.) Allow these structures to heal.
What the person usually will experience is less and less sharp, shooting pain in the leg. That's great, and that's positive progress!
If this person came to us with pain and numbness from their lower back pain down to their calf or foot... after receiving corrective manual therapy and treatment, they will typically describe that they may be feeling less symptoms in their lower leg/feet, but that it's in their buttocks/hip or just their lower back area. Again, that is positive progress.
We suggest to trust the process and continue with this form of rehabilitation and treatment approach. Regarding the positive progress above - we call that centralization.
Centralization is exactly what we've looking for. (The opposite is peripheralization, which was what happened when you first developed those symptoms going down the back side of your leg.).
When a person is experiencing less and less symptoms in their lower leg or less symptoms in the hamstring area, then that means you are in the process of taking pressure off of the nerve. That is what confirms that someone has a herniated disc, and that their herniated disc is treatable, resolvable, and fixable by our Doctors of Physical Therapy.
And, these people do have hope. They do have hope of healing and naturally resolving this condition, without pain medications, injections, or risky surgery.
If you are experiencing lower back pain and/or sharp, shooting pain or symptoms going down the back side of your leg, then does it make sense to contact us and speak with one of specialists?
Feel free to call us 24/7 at (646)-781-8884 or complete the brief form below to tell us about your condition.
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