… Top Treatments, Solutions, Causes, and Symptoms
The discs are the “shock absorbers” of your spine, acting as small, spongy cushions to protect your vertebrae and keep your spine flexible. Though durable, they are not invincible, and with wear and tear they sometimes become damaged, bulge or break open.
This is known as a herniated disc (or sometimes referred to as a slipped or ruptured disc).
Top Signs of a Herniated Disc
It’s estimated that one-third of people over the age of 20 have signs of herniated discs, although 97 percent occur without symptoms.[i] It’s very possible, and common, to have a herniated disc even if you don’t have low back pain. In one study, when researchers performed MRIs on 98 asymptomatic people (i.e., people with NO back pain), they found over 60% had a herniated disc![ii]
The fact is, you can suffer varying levels of disc degeneration, with varying levels of symptoms, ranging from none at all to severe shooting pain. Symptoms commonly include one or more of these:
- Sharp, shooting pain starting in the buttocks and travels down the back of one leg
- Numbness and tingling in one leg (pins and needles)
- A burning pain centered in your lower back
- Sciatica, when the herniated or bulging disc presses on your sciatic nerve.
- Back pain with gradually increasing leg pain
- Weakness in one or both legs
- Loss of bladder or bowel control (this is a medical emergency that requires immediate medical help)
The pain from a herniated disc occurs because the jelly-like center of your spinal disc is being pushed out of place and is pushing on a nerve (sort of like what would happen if you squeezed a jelly donut). It doesn’t matter whether the “jelly” has actually broken through the outside of the disc (herniated disc) or is simply pushing it outwards (bulging disc) — once it touches or “pinches” a nerve you’re in pain.
Pain from a herniated disc can occur anywhere along your spine, but most often it impacts your lower back or your neck.
What Causes a Herniated Disc?
Lifting a heavy object, making a sudden awkward movement or getting injured in an accident can all lead to a herniated disc, but, much more often, the cause is more insidious.
The discs in your spine deteriorate with age, drying out and becoming less flexible. The degeneration process is made worse by repetitive strains that occur over a lifetime, such as sitting or standing with poor posture. Most people suffer from varying degrees of muscle imbalances, where one muscle is used more often (and therefore grows stronger) than an opposing muscle (which becomes weakened). This, in turn, leads to postural dysfunctions, in which your bones remain in an abnormal position, leading to uneven and excessive compression and torsion that causes discs to bulge or herniate.
Best Solutions for a Herniated Disc — Targeted Exercises, Pain Relief and More
To truly stop a herniated disc from occurring and progressing, you need to identify your postural dysfunctions so you can reverse your muscle imbalances to prevent further and ongoing damage to your spine.
Muscle balance therapy is a systematic approach for identifying what specific muscle imbalances you have. Then, instead of getting a generic set of exercises and stretches that may or may not relieve your pain, muscle balance therapy gives you targeted exercises to strengthen your underworked, weak muscles and targeted stretches to loosen up those tight, overworked muscles. This is especially important if you want to prevent a recurrence.
There are other valuable options too, which can help you both relieve pain and support healing. What you will NOT find on the list that follows are medications like NSAIDs or opioids, or a recommendation for surgery. Drugs, while effective at relieving pain, can cause side effects worse than the condition you’re trying to treat, and they are only a temporary solution — not one that will heal your herniated disc on any level.
As for surgery, it is not appropriate for most herniated disc cases, of which 96 percent of cases recover within six months, without surgery. Not to mention, the long-term success rate for back surgery is nothing to brag about; it is so abysmal, in fact, it’s the only type of surgery with its own medical establishment term for failure: Failed Back Surgery Syndrome. Even if the surgery manages to relieve your pain, the effect is often only temporary, and the problem can come back because you haven’t addressed the underlying causes (i.e. your postural dysfunctions and muscle imbalances that caused the problem in the first place).
Getting back to what will help with herniated disc relief and healing, you can find many of the top solutions by subscribing to the free LosetheBackPain.com e-newsletter using the subscribe button in the upper right corner of this page. You’ll learn about safe and effective options, including:
- Far-infrared heat: A far-infrared heating pad penetrates deeper than skin level, reaching the tissues and muscle underneath. This not only gives you relief from back pain and sciatica caused by herniated discs, it actually improves circulation to the area to fight inflammation and promote healing by bringing in needed nutrients.
- Natural pain relief cream: Options like our Rub-On-Relief use White Willow Bark and other natural ingredients for sustained pain relief — without the potential danger of methyl salicylate.
- Proteolytic enzymes: When you have a herniated disc, your body sends prostaglandins in to cause pain and inflammation. This signals your body to take it easy and provides a mechanism for healing to take place. But your body also needs proteolytic enzymes to shut down the inflammation process and clean up excess fibrin, or internal scar tissue, created during the healing process.
- Inversion therapy: The effects are deceivingly simple: by hanging upside down, you increase the space between your vertebrae, relaxing the pressure on your discs, ligaments and nerve roots. Increasing intra-vertebral space means reducing pressure on the nerve roots, which means less back pain and less likelihood of nerve root damage. When you oscillate up and down on an inversion table, it creates a pumping action for the fluids around your spinal discs. This forces waste out and draws in fluid around your discs, helping to realign your spine when used in the long term.
Of course, you can’t forget the basics to healing any condition: proper nutrition and hydration.
The inner material of your spinal discs are made of roughly 70% water, so drinking water regularly throughout the day is important. Likewise, a varied diet rich in fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and proteins will give your body the nutrients it needs to repair herniated discs, injuries, and plain old daily wear-and-tear. If your diet needs some added support, a natural high-grade multivitamin supplement can help fill in the gaps.
Is Your Back Pain Due to a Herniated Disc?
It’s important to point out that just as you can have a herniated disc without symptoms, you can have low back pain that is not due to a herniated disc.
The only way to tell for sure whether you really have a herniated disc or not is by having an MRI, which can cost upwards of hundreds or even thousands of dollars. This may or may not be worth it, as whether you have a herniated disc or another back problem such as Facet Joint Syndrome or Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction, the underlying causes are often the same — and therefore so are the most effective treatments. Before spending thousands of dollars unnecessarily, try correcting your muscle imbalances while supplying your body with natural enzymes, heat, targeted exercises and decompression strategies (like inversion therapy) to relieve pain while supporting the healing process.
You may find that not only do your pain and other symptoms disappear, but your back grows stronger and more flexible with each passing day.