How Physical Therapy Can Help When You're Suffering with a Herniated Disc

 How Physical Therapy Can Help When You're Suffering with a Herniated Disc

About 80% of people experience back pain during their lifetimes, and in many of those cases, a herniated disc is to blame. Herniated discs are especially common in the lower back and the neck — the two most flexible areas of your spine.

Many treatment options are available to relieve the pain of a herniated disc, and physical therapy is one of the most effective options. 

At his practice in Roseville, Minnesota, David Chang, MD-PhD, DABNS, often recommends physical therapy on its own and in combination with other therapies to help each patient achieve maximum relief from painful symptoms. Here’s how physical therapy could help you.

Herniated discs: The basics

Discs are spongy dividers that separate each pair of spine bones (vertebrae). Their role is to act as shock absorbers to protect the nerves inside your spine, and they also help your spine stay flexible. 

Normally, the margin or border of each disc is contained within the border of the vertebrae, creating a sort of vertebrae-disc sandwich. Sometimes, though, a disc slips out of place and extends over the edge of the vertebrae. When you move your back, the disc gets pinched or compressed. This is called a bulging disc.

Without treatment, continual pressure on the edge of the disc can eventually tear the disc’s outer covering, allowing some of the gel-like interior of the disc to leak out. This is a herniated disc. 

Common causes

Bulging and herniated discs often are the result of repetitive motion in your spine, including lots of heavy lifting and bending. Being overweight or pregnant also increases your risk of disc issues by increasing the stress on your spine.

Disc issues tend to become more common with age, when spine-related issues make it easier for discs to move out of place. Finally, some people develop a slipped disc after a fall or other accident.

Both bulging and herniated discs can cause considerable pain, and physical therapy can help both conditions.

The important role of physical therapy

Physical therapy uses a series of exercises and stretches aimed at relieving painful symptoms that herniated and bulging discs cause. One major benefit of physical therapy is that it can be entirely customized to suit each patient’s symptoms and their tolerance for activity.

Physical therapy promotes healing in several ways. 

First, activity that focuses on the injured area increases circulation to the disc and surrounding structures. Circulation plays a key role in healing, delivering oxygen and nutrients necessary for tissue repair, while also carrying away toxins produced by injury and inflammation.

Regular therapeutic exercises (including at-home exercises) keep your spine mobile and flexible. By performing your exercises regularly, you can avoid stiffness that can interfere with healing and actually make your symptoms much worse.

Therapeutic exercises also help strengthen the muscles and connective tissues that support your back. Our team helps you learn exercises and activities that can maintain that strength and flexibility to prevent disc problems in the future.

Don’t let back pain get in the way

Dr. Chang and our team use physical therapy alone and in combination with medication and other therapies to help you enjoy maximum pain relief and improved spine health. 

To learn how we can tailor a program to help you feel better, call 651-219-7322 or book an appointment online today.

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