The Infamous Disc
Slipped, bulged, blown, ruptured, herniated and protruding. No, this isnt your constipated colon after a chili cook off! These are some of the many terms used to describe that infamous low-back problem, the lumbar disc injury. Whats a lumbar disc, you say? Lumbar just means your low-back. A disc is the ligament between each of your five low-back bones. Think of a disc as a jelly donut with the ligament being the outside cake and the center of the disc being jelly, which is the nucleus.
When the ligament exterior cracks either through injury or excessive wear, the jelly center slips to one side. In severe cases, the jelly can actually squirt out of the disc. It is usually quite painful and if it nicks a nerve you will get “sciatica” pain from the low back down the leg. I think this must be where we get the expression “pain in the butt,” as sciatica often starts in the butt and runs farther down the leg the worse it gets.
This problem can occur by doing something as innocent as bending over to pick up a pencil. The disc may have been wearing out for years and was simply hanging by a thread, just waiting to pop. Or it may have been caused by a previous traumatic injury. Either way, do not panic. Most of the time chiropractic care will help and the problems generally do not need surgery. The bad news is several weeks of care may be necessary to improve your symptoms and decrease your pain.
This is how your disc treatment experience should proceed. After the usual paperwork and a thorough questioning by your chiropractor, you will get a physical examination to check your nerves and to see how much mobility you still have in your low back. Your chiropractor may recommend further tests (i.e., x-rays or an MRI) and a treatment recommendation. Treatment can include chiropractic, traction, physical therapy and later specific exercises. These are performed in your chiropractors office.
Long term, these problems will act up from time-to-time. You are going to have to exercise the low back regularly. Periodic chiropractic care will help keep the flare-ups under control. Get any extra weight off but remember, it is a long-term goal. One of the most important things is to be realistic. Beware of anyone who promises or implies a cure for low-back pain. There are no promises in healthcare and every treatment has risks.
Surgery is probably a last resort because of the dangers vs. benefits. However, there are times when surgery is necessary or the result could be permanent neurologic damage.
Low back disc problems are manageable. You will have some pain, but with proper care, persistence and hard work most people continue on with their daily activities without too much discomfort.