Most people will have heard the phrase “slipped disc” or perhaps “bulging disc” if you have ever been unfortunate enough to experience one then you will know first hand the pain and disability it can cause.
First things first…. discs do not slip and you cannot put a disc back in!!
The spinal discs act as little shock absorbing cushions between your vertebrae or spinal bones, they have a slightly harder outer ring and then a softer squishy inside. Think of your discs like a jam doughnut, if you squeeze that doughnut too hard the jam comes out and there is no way on earth that jam is going back in that doughnut! Same thing applies to a spinal disc, put it under too much repeated pressure, usually from movements that involve bending and twisting, and it will start to bulge out and sometimes even burst. To further slightly complicate matters when discs do bulge or burst they will often put pressure on the nerves that exit the spine at that level. This gives you the typical symptoms of a disc problem, that of pain, pins and needles, numbness and sometimes weakness down one or if you’re really unlucky both legs.
However, as dramatic as this may sound, it is not the long term condition that people think it is. Yes that disc material won’t go back but, over time, they can heal. In probably 80% of cases the majority of the pain felt by people is in fact due to the swelling around the injury. Just as you get if you sprain your ankle the tissues around the disc prolapse will swell, we just can’t see it happening. With time, anti-inflammatory drugs, gentle exercise and manual therapy these cases will improve on their own. A small percentage of people will require surgery, even then the surgeons do not replace the escaped disc material, they will simply cut it away and remove it.
More recently studies have shown that the body can in fact reabsorb escaped disc material, a process that appears to happen over a number of months rather than years.
So how can osteopathy help with a disc bulge? Well for a start we can help correctly diagnose your pain! Just because you have pain going down you leg it doesn’t automatically mean you have a disc problem! Once we have examined and made a diagnosis then treatment will usually consist of gentle soft tissue massage to help prevent any muscle spasm, joint mobilisation and traction to help improve the movement around the area and off load the injured disc and advice on home care and exercises you can do to help your recovery.
So if you think you may be suffering from disc related pain do send me any questions you may have and perhaps come and see how Osteopathy could help you get back to being able to put your socks on in the morning!!