As anyone who has experienced it can attest, lower back pain can be debilitating and all-consuming. Besides the painful experience, however, it can also be costly. According to the American Chiropractic Association, low-back pain is experienced by 31 million Americans at any given time and costs at least $50 billion a year in healthcare costs.
While the causes for lower back pain can be numerous, one of the most common is degeneration or herniation of your intervertebral discs. In this article, we will explore how these discs function in your spine and what you can do to keep them healthy so you can avoid back pain.
What Are Intervertebral Discs?
According to Physiopedia, intervertebral discs are cushions of fibrocartilage and sit between pairs of vertebrae in the spinal column. These discs have limited movability on their own, but when working with vertebrae, they allow for a wide range of motion in the back.
The spine is designed to have a wide range of motion, and these motions are possible because of the intervertebral disc. These discs also provide shock absorption when in motion, protecting the vertebrae and spinal cord from injury or trauma.
Problems Associated with the Intervertebral Disc
Intervertebral Discs can degenerate (or wear down) as part of the natural aging process. Discs can also be worn down by repetitive movement. Back pain is a common complaint of workers in industries such as factory work, furniture moving, or other professions where the same physical motion is made over and over for prolonged periods of time. Degeneration can cause symptoms such as:
- Pain in the legs, thighs, and buttocks that worsens with standing
- Pain in the lower back
- Pain in the neck
- Pins and needle sensation
- Muscle spasms
Back pain can also be caused by a herniation of one of your intervertebral discs. This occurs when the soft center of your disc pushes through a crack in its tougher exterior casing. While some herniated discs cause no symptoms, others can irritate nearby nerves and result in pain, numbness, or weakness in an arm or leg.
Treatment for the above conditions can include physical therapy, medications such as NSAIDs, chiropractic therapies, and self-care, such as exercise and heating pads. If the condition of the disc is bad enough, surgery may also be used to repair the damage and alleviate the pain it’s causing.
Keeping Your Discs Healthy
While there are many non-invasive methods of relieving pain associated with problems with your intervertebral disc, there are also many methods you could make part of your daily routine to keep your discs healthy and strong. These habits can help you avoid issues with your intervertebral discs:
- Stay at a Healthy Weight
Increased weight means an increase in the load your spinal column has to bear. This means that being overweight can speed up the process of degeneration.
- Stay Active
The effects of mechanical loading depend on how much of a load there is and how long it lasts. If the disk doesn’t get enough use (from sitting most of the time), it swells. If it gets too much use, degeneration is sped up. Regular moderate activity helps keep the spine strong.
- Consider Your Mattress
Americans spend up to half their lifetime sleeping and laying around in bed (think: watching TV, reading). So it stands to reason that if you’re looking for a way to take care of your spine, you should consider what kind of mattress you have. When looking for a mattress that is going to offer support for your spine and all its parts, you should shoot for medium-firm, such as a memory foam mattress.
- Check Your Posture
Let’s face it — even the most active of us aren’t active all the time. That’s why it’s important to be aware of your posture when you’re at rest. Notice your posture when you’re doing things such as watching TV, sitting at your desk at work, or driving your car. If you have bad posture, you may be overstressing your intervertebral discs. Practice good posture to relieve the stress on your spine.
South Orange Rehabilitation & Wellness has the know-how and experience to help you alleviate existing pain caused by your intervertebral discs or to help you stay strong enough to avoid issues. Contact one of our professionals today to discuss how we can help your back feel stronger and pain-free.