Health Blog

Lumbar Disc Herniation: What is a Slipped Disc?

Lumbar disk herniation

A herniated disc in the lumbar spine is one of the most common causes of pain in the lower back. Not only can it cause pain in the lower back, but also in the legs (sciatica) because of the pressure it puts on nerve roots. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), 60-80% of us will experience lower back pain during our lifetimes. For many of us, the pain will be the result of a herniated lumbar disc.

In order to really understand lumbar disc herniation, a little spinal anatomy refresher course is in order …

What Are Spinal Discs?

Your spine is composed of a “stack” of 24 bones called vertebra. These bones connect and serve as a protective canal that surrounds the spinal cord. (The bottom 5 vertebrae make up the lumbar spine.) In between each of the vertebrae, is a flexible disc that act as shock absorbers when you walk, run or jump. End plates line the end of each of the vertebrae and serve to hold the discs in place. A tough outer ring called the annulus protects the gel-like substance called the nucleus pulposis, that’s inside of each of the disks.

Herniation

If the annulus breaks open or cracks, the gel-like nucleus pulposus inside the disc begins to leak. (This can happen as the result of an injury, or just as a result of wear and tear or aging.) The gradual loss of the nucleus pulposus eventually causes the disc to lose its spongy quality, and to flatten and harden. Once that happens, the disc can put pressure on the nearby spinal nerve root, causing shooting pains in the lower back and often into the buttocks and down the leg*. (*The L4 L5 S1 S2 S3 spinal nerve roots join together to form the sciatic nerve, which can then radiate pain down its length through the buttocks and the leg down to the foot.)

Often a herniated or ruptured disc is referred to as a “slipped disc“, a term that’s a little misleading since it’s not the actual disc that slips, but rather the contents of the disc.

Non-Invasive Treatment for a Herniated Lumbar Disc

  • Once a disc in the lumbar spine ruptures, the first 24-48 hours are a crucial time to take action with cold therapy — ice packs. Cold therapy helps in several ways. It decreases blood flow, which in turn reduces swelling and pain. To use and ice pack properly and safely, always wrap it in a towel and apply it for only 15 minutes at a time.
  • You can also take any of the over-the-counter NSAIDs, which are non-steroidal and safe when used as directed. NSAIDs work by reducing inflammation, swelling and pain.
  • The good news is that pain from a herniated disc is often short-lived, although it will recur from time to time. However, when the injury or irritation first occurs, the pain is sometimes severe, and your doctor may prescribe a muscle relaxant to calm spasms and a short-term pain medication that will relieve severe pain more effectively than NSAIDs can.
  • After the initial 48-hours pass, it’s usually time to apply heat therapy. Heat increases blood flow to the area to warm and relax muscles and help flush away any accumulated toxins in the tissues. Just as with cold therapy, it’s important that you don’t apply the heat directly to your skin. Wrap it in a towel and warm the area for no more than 20 minutes.
  • Physical Therapy is an important part of a successful treatment plan for a herniated lumbar disc. It usually consists of a combination of treatments designed to ease pain and promote healing of the disc. It may also include cold and heat therapies, gentle massage, core strengthening and stretching — your physical (PT) will always work with you to tailor your physical therapy to your specific needs and symptoms.

These types of non-invasive treatments, working together usually speed recovery, and most cases are resolved by using them. More rarely, you may need surgery to resolve whatever is causing your pain. Minimally invasive using small incisions and tiny instruments is often possible. Even so, it’s a good idea to get a second opinion about spine — or any — surgery, for that matter.

Is Prevention Possible?

Since lumbar disc herniation is often a natural side-effect to aging, you probably can’t always prevent it, but there are things you can do to take care of your spine health to improve your odds of avoiding a slipped (herniated) disc:

  • Pay attention to your posture.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Make healthier food choices.
  • Get plenty of moderate exercise.
  • Learn how to lift and bend properly.

Are You at Risk?

Besides age, there are a few other risk factors — some subject to control, and some not — including:

  • Being male. Men between the ages of 35 and 40 are most likely to rupture a disc.
  • Not lifting things correctly.
  • Repetitive movements that strain your lower back. (Some jobs call for repeated bending and lifting that can wear discs out over time.)
  • Being overweight.
  • Being a driver (truck, cab, bus, etc.). Long periods in a seated position combined with the engine vibration can and often does, put pressure on your discs.
  • Being a couch (or device) potato. Your body (and spine) need to move to remain healthy.
  • Researchers believe that smoking damages your discs by lessening their supply of oxygen, which in turn leads to faster degeneration. So add “causes herniated discs”, to the myriad of other health problems that smoking tobacco causes.

If at some point you join the ranks of the many Americans that suffer a herniated lumbar disc sometime during your life, see your doctor and your physical therapist and follow their instructions. Above all, remember that it usually doesn’t take too long to get relief!

Want to find out how to tell if your pain is due to a disc herniation and how to heal without medications, injections, or surgery?

I’m hosting a Lower Back Pain and Sciatica Workshop coming up at both our Valparaiso and Crown Point locations.

Click the links below to register and hold your spot. We are only taking 20 attendees at each location.

Click here for the Valparaiso Lower Back Pain and Sciatica Workshop.

Click here for the Crown Point Lower Back Pain and Sciatica Workshop.

Click here for the LaPorte Lower Back Pain and Sciatica Workshop.

‘Hope to see you there.

 

Arlan Alburo

 

Tags: , ,

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR MAIL LISTDiscover the solution to pain-free living.
Sign up today for monthly health tips.

Our Reviews
Kathleen Pullins
Kathleen Pullins
22:34 27 Feb 20
Amazing therapists! So kind and patient! They helped me recover from my seventh concussion! No more nausea and 100% improved balance. I made a full recovery in 6 weeks!
Hile Originals
Hile Originals
02:11 31 Jan 20
My neurologist prescribed balance therapy, which was done here at OBTS. I was skeptical of balance therapy at first, but by golly, it worked! It helps that the staff is phenomenal and fun, which helps make therapy sessions a little easier. If I ever have other therapy needs, I will make a return trip here.
Chuck Hillier
Chuck Hillier
20:51 28 Jan 20
I'm in my 4th Week & the Results are Demonstrable ! Referred by my Doc and he's pleased as well. Very Welcoming & Pleasant Atmosphere.... Very Talented & Fun Staff. Chuck H.
Ruth Bowlin
Ruth Bowlin
18:31 22 Jan 20
All your people are very helpful and answer any questions I have enjoy the great help they have given me so can be active again
bill steinbrecher
bill steinbrecher
21:38 17 Jan 20
I enjoyed each visit at OBTS for each of my therapy sessions. They helped and I felt I was a part of a family as I got to know each of the therapists.
rodney dowell
rodney dowell
22:35 13 Jan 20
Ortho/Balance helped me achieve full movement of my knee after full knee replacement. Their Physical Therapy Dept. is exceptional.I have been to other PT CLINICS; but Ortho/Balance outshines them all by a Hundred fold. They are caring and they don't rush you through. I recommend them above all others, they truly the BEST. I was fortunate to have found them by accident. All the staff are great; but Joe Lucio is top shelf. He is attentive and doesn't hurt you Very gentle and gets the job done. THANK YOU ALL RODNEY DOWELL
Amber Verstat
Amber Verstat
19:17 19 Dec 19
Went in with the most horrible pain in my leg muscles. Staff (Joe worked on me) did a wonderful job helping with pain! I was about to just chop off my leg, honestly. Highly recommend!
Lou Donkle
Lou Donkle
18:47 19 Dec 19
5-stars for the hands-on staff, 1-star for the business policies regarding their high-priced laser treatments. I arrived on my first appointment with a prescription from my doctor for medicare-covered machine-therapy (iontophoresis and ultrasound) plus PT. After a 1-hour evaluation with a therapist, only THEN was I informed they do not offer the medicare-covered machine therapy prescribed by my doctor. Three different people eventually told me that my prescribed medicare-authorized treatment was not supported by medical research and they recommended laser therapy that was NOT covered by medicare and would cost me hundreds of dollars for a series of treatments.I was SHOCKED! I asked ... you mean a medicare-authorized treatment is NOT supported by medical research?! And you cannot provide me exactly what I came here to get?! And you waited until AFTER a 1-hour evaluation before you told me all that?! I was in total disbelief and felt terrible because of all the subtle but polite pressure that was put on me when all I wanted was what my doctor had ordered. Why did they need to make me feel so terrible? I just couldn't believe it.After I asked my questions, the "manager" was consulted several times and I was eventually informed that they COULD do most of what was prescribed by my doctor and it would all be covered by medicare. I felt trapped since I had already been there one hour so proceeded with the treatment. This is where the 5-star rating starts. All hands-on people were OUTSTANDING and the full course of PT fixed my issue 100%.My advice is to be very cautious if you are recommended treatments NOT ordered by your doctor. Otherwise, an excellent place.
Elaine Krause
Elaine Krause
18:18 11 Dec 19
I attended several of the Saturday workshops at OBTS to increase my knowledge as a yoga instructor. Noel’s informative presentations were tailored to meet the needs of those individuals who were present. I took advantage of the free assessment offered to the attendees, and chose to try PT to resolve a minor issue. The therapists did an excellent job correcting the problem quickly. Great team of professionals! Thank you!
Timothy Knopf
Timothy Knopf
20:18 30 Oct 19
Best therapy place around. I would recommend this place to everyone. They have the best group of therapists around.
Mitchell Udowitz
Mitchell Udowitz
20:43 27 Oct 19
I have been to two Physical Therapy places prior to finding Orthopedic & Balance Therapy in Valparaiso. While they were ok they don’t hold a candle to Orthopedic & Balance Therapy. OBT team works as one in harmony and they stay on top of the latest technology for their patients. Their team is so very knowledgeable and very friendly plus they generally care about what they are doing and it shows. They are concerned about the whole person not just the injury they need to be treated for.
Barbara Serynek
Barbara Serynek
18:52 03 Oct 19
The entire staff has been very pleasant, professional and accommodating. Both Kristen and Joe have given me the best massages. Kate and Kollin made sure that I was doing my excercises and helped to move things along. Feeling better every visit. I'm so glad that I chose Orthopedic & Balance.
Heidi Richardson
Heidi Richardson
17:00 19 Sep 19
I went to physical therapy not expecting it to do very much to help because that’s the way I approach everything with low expectations. Noel and his team have made my neck feel so much better that it puts me in a more positive mood each day and I actually feel more positive and more productive on a day-to-day basis..
Christine O'Donnell
Christine O'Donnell
16:26 14 Aug 19
I could barely walk into OBTS six weeks ago. I had very bad lower back and hip pain. The progress has been life changing for me. I always walk out of there with little or no pain. The staff, Laura, Dr Diane, Angie and, of course, Peggy, have taught me so much to keep my pain at bay. I highly recommend this team.
Nancy Guenther
Nancy Guenther
15:28 12 Jul 19
Absolutely awesome! My walking has improved 110%. And my pain level is zero. I highly recommend them. Go....you will be amazed how much better you feel.
Tracie Baxter
Tracie Baxter
20:24 03 Jul 19
This was the only place that could help with my TMJ. If you’re suffering from TMJ go see Noel! He really understands the condition. I no long have to deal with constant pain! The whole staff at this office is amazing and very welcoming.
Cindy Standiford
Cindy Standiford
21:33 28 Jun 19
The whole team is great!! I’m getting great care! I recommend Orthopedic & Balance for any issues you might have.
Joseph Mulholland
Joseph Mulholland
19:53 09 May 19
Amazing staff and amazing care. I came in barely able to stand up straight due to a back injury. After 6 weeks, I feel like brand new. Everyone was extremely helpful and easy to work with. Highly recommended!
Trool u
Trool u
19:44 24 Apr 19
I am a PTA student that was required 16 hours of observation time. I had the pleasure of completing my hours at this Valpo location. The staff is incredibly friendly. They were quick to make me feel at home. In a way I was sad to leave, but happy to continue on. I hope to eventually work in this field with a work family this caring and knowledgeable about their profession.
sharon Kramer
sharon Kramer
16:23 18 Apr 19
My experience has been a very enjoyable and rewarding experience in getting me to feeling better.The staff does a remarkable job and are fully qualified in their respective areas. The staff made it fun coming here and they were very caring and helpful with their clients!!
Tim Nash
Tim Nash
15:32 27 Aug 18
My first experience with OBTS was very positive. During the course of my 13 therapy sessions I worked with many different therapists and all of them were professional and competent. They were able to help me effectively control my pain without medication using their therapy program. Unfortunately, they could not get my physical condition back to the same ability as before. However, this is due to the fact that it was later determined by my doctors that I required surgery. I plan on returning to OBTS for my post-op physical therapy and have already scheduled my evaluation appointment. Scheduling seems to be a challenge sometimes but that's probably an indication of their patient's satisfaction and good reviews. Thank you OBTS!
Arlene Gross
Arlene Gross
15:58 22 Jun 18
Everyone that worked with me was helpful. I enjoyed watching the staff interact as they worked as they laughed and smiled making me feel that it was fun to exercise. My knee pain is less and I look forward to having the same results with my back.
Jose Ico
Jose Ico
12:43 27 Apr 18
My wife and I have been coming here for a year. They have wonderful customer service and the treatments were great. I could say that since coming here for treatments, I am now able to walk properly and sleep well at nights. They help you in the best way possible. The people here are great and we definitely recommend it to everyone!
Paul Grant
Paul Grant
21:51 03 Apr 18
I have read lots of reviews that say "the entire staff of ..." is great, and you know that it is BS.. .. Butt at OBTS that statement is true. The person answering the phone, appointment setting they work around my schedule. It is truly a team concept. Everyone that has work with/on me keeps me focus on getting healthy to play golf.... Even those employees that haven't work with/on me are upbeat, positive and encouraging both their patients and me..... follow up phone calls, positive, hand written notes of encouragement, reminding me to do my homework so I can play golf this year. Great Employees, Great Business!.
Diane Burns
Diane Burns
02:30 16 Mar 18
I’ve had an incredible experience here at OBTS. In just two and half weeks I’ve seen and felt remarkable results. My hip mobility has improved by 30%. I credit the excellent physical therapists and the deep tissue laser therapy for my gains. I’ve gone from walking with a limp and pain everyday to walking normally and know that I’ll be back to running in the future. Every single person is warm and friendly here. Great place!
See All Reviews