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Disc Problems

Intervertebral discs are the strong layers of soft tissue that lie between our vertebrae in the spine to act as shock absorbers due to weight bearing and forces that our spines are subjected to. When we rotate our backs, injuries can occur to the discs. There can be tears, disc herniation or disc prolapse. The risk of injury to the discs is enhanced if we rotate whilst in a flexed position so lifting and twisting movements for example digging the garden, putting the baby in the car or doing unsafe exercises.

Signs and Symptoms of disc problems

  • Pain may be sudden.
  • Constant dull aching pain felt deeply in the back.
  • Certain movements-usually bending forward is the most painful.
  • Pain aggravated by sitting and relieved by walking or lying on your front.
  • Pain is usually worse upon waking and gradually eases with movement over a 1-3 hr period.
  • Sometimes pain can be felt down the leg and into the foot (lower back) or arms and hands (neck) and is often more painful than the back itself.
  • Weakness to the arms and hands or legs.
  • Loss of sensation to the perineal region, or bladder/bowel incontinence or inability to pass anything in the toilet (surgical emergency whereby decompression of nerve root required).

disc injuries

A=normal disc. B=internal disc disruption. C=disc herniation. D=disc herniation with prolapse.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of disc disease can be made from the case history and examination findings but the actual location and extent of disc disease would be clarified from a MRI scan.

Disc Treatment

Osteopathy can provide disc treatment by reducing the pain associated with disc disease. It will aid a reduction of inflammation and muscle spasm to the surrounding area, and improving function to the vertebrae above and below the affected region. Osteopathic treatment for disc disease uses a combination of soft tissue massage, manipulation to surrounding areas and traction to the affected part of the spine whilst you are in a position of greatest comfort. Disc injuries and in particular herniated disc treatment usually takes approximately 6 weeks to heal so patience and compliance with treatment and exercises is very important. Disc prolapses can take longer and may require surgery.

The cause of disc disease would also need to be established so advice can be given on not repeating the same injury in the future. This may be related to work, recreational or sporting activities for example.