Phone: 045 874682

Disc Injury

Causes of Disc injury with treatment at Naas Physio Clinic

What is a Disc Herniation?

The spinal discs lie in between the vertebrae (bones) of the spine. The purpose of the spinal discs is to act as a shock absorber and to allow a small range of mobility between adjacent spinal vertebrae. There are 23 spinal discs in the spine and this highlights the complexity of the spine when compared with other joints of the body. The discs are composed of a tough outer ring (annulus fibrosis) and a soft jelly-like core (nucleus pulposus). With a disc herniation, both layers of the disc degenerate to a point that the jelly-like core can escape into the spinal canal and compress surrounding nerves. This nerve root compression can explain many of the symptoms associated with disc herniations, such as pain in the thigh & also numbness, tingling or pins and needles in the legs or feet. Many people will tell you that they had a ‘slipped disc’ and will commonly report how they had somebody ‘put it back in place’. This is not quite correct, as the jelly-like spinal disc, once it has herniated, cannot be put back into place. The healing process for a real disc herniation will take a period of time & the disc cannot be popped in or out.

There is some debate as to whether the symptoms of a disc herniation arise due to direct compression of the disc herniation against the nerve root or whether there is an inflammatory response that takes place in response to a disc herniation that in turn stimulates the surrounding nerves. This inflammation can increase the pressure from the disc bulge on the nerve root. As the inflammatory response is brought under control then the symptoms may be alleviated.

Management of a Disc Herniation

It is important to realise that although the symptoms of a disc herniation may come on very suddenly, the underlying changes that predispose to back pain develop over several years. Factors such as poor posture & deconditioned trunk muscles can predispose the spine to more rapid degenerative changes which can eventually give rise to disc herniations. It would be logical that if the underlying cause of the disc herniation is not addressed then this may predispose to future spine or disc injury. This is borne out by research demonstrating a massive reduction in low back re-injury rates in those who undergo specific rehabilitation programmes. After 12 months re-injury rates were 30% in those who had undergone a rehabilitation programme versus 80% in those who had not.

A disc herniation should be carefully monitored and rehabilitated under professional guidance. Occasionally, surgery may be required for a disc herniation but practice guidelines suggest that this should only take place if there is no improvement in symptoms over a period of months and in cases where there are changes in bowel or bladder habits or progressive neurological deficits.

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(045) 874 682

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