Herniated Disk
If you are experiencing lower back pain that moves down to your buttocks and legs, you might just have a herniated disk. Herniated disk symptoms can sometimes go away on their own. In other cases, the pain will linger, go away, and recur. It is important to seek care early, by requesting an appointment with a physical therapist to evaluate your back and create a treatment plan for you. Contact us today to get started.
What is a Herniated Disk?
A herniated disk is one of the most common causes of lower back pain and leg pain. Although, it can happen anywhere along the spine, it usually occurs in the lower back. Sometimes, it is called a bulging, protruded, slipped, or ruptured disk. Your spine is made up of 24 bones (vertebrae) that are on top of one another. In between each of the bones are rubbery-like cushions called disks. These disks serve as shock absorbers when you run or walk. Each disk has two parts; the inner soft jelly-like nucleus and the tough outer ring called the annulus. A disk herniation occurs when the soft jelly-like nucleus pushes out against the outer ring through a tear. When a disk is herniated, it can affect the surrounding spinal nerve. This results in severe pain, numbness, and weakness that can travel down to the buttocks, thighs, and legs.
Causes of Herniated Disk
The main cause for disk herniation is a result of gradual age-related wear and tear called disk degeneration. As you get older, the disk becomes more flexible and prone to rupturing from a minor twist or strain. A traumatic event such as a fall can cause a herniated disk. Although, this is rare. Family history has also been seen as a cause for herniated disks.
Herniated Disk Risk Factors
Several factors can contribute to or increase your risk for a disk herniation. They include:

Sex

Men are more likely to have a herniated disk, especially between the ages of 20 to 50 years.

Obesity

Having too much weight may put pressure on the disc in your lower back

Improper lifting

Using your back muscles to lift heavy weight instead of your leg muscles can cause disk herniation

Repetitive movements

and activities that strain the spine

Sedentary lifestyle

Exercising is important in preventing herniated disk

Genetics

Some persons because of their genetic makeup, are more prone to a herniated disk.

Smoking

Excessive smoking limits oxygen from going to the disks. This causes the disks to break down more quickly.

Herniated Disk Symptoms
The first symptom you are likely to experience if you have herniated disk is lower back pain. This pain may go away on its own after a while. Other symptoms you could experience include:

Sharp pain that travels down from the buttocks to one leg. This condition is called sciatica, and it caused by spinal nerve compression.

Tingling or numbness in leg or foot

Weakness in the leg or foot

It’s also possible to not have symptoms but still have herniated disk. It will only show up during an imaging test.
Diagnosing Herniated Disk
At Polygon PT, a physical therapist will examine your medical history, and evaluate your back. Your therapist will ask you to lie on your back, while lifting the affected leg, but keeping your knee straight. If you feel pain down your leg and below the knee, it is a strong indication that you have a herniated disk. Your therapist will also check for muscle strength in the lower leg, and other areas of your body if needed. You might be required to undergo imaging tests. This may be
Treatment for Herniated Disk
Physically therapy is an effective treatment for herniated disks, with patients achieving results in 3-4 months. However, you will see improvement in symptoms after a few days or weeks. Your physical therapist will create a program that is customized to suit your needs. The goal is to relieve your pain, get your back to your normal activities, and teach you how to adopt the correct posture to prevent a recurrence. Immediately herniated disk is diagnosed, your therapist will ask you to rest, and apply ice packs to the affected area a couple of times a day. Exercises that reduce pain, improve motion, improve flexibility, restore strength and endurance, and improve posture will be included in your treatment plan. Your therapist will also educate you on stretching and strengthening exercises you can do at home for a quicker recovery.
Get Started With Physical Therapy for Herniated Disk Today
If you have been experiencing symptoms of a herniated disk that hasn’t improved on its own, it’s time to see a physical therapist. Request an appointment with one of our physical therapists right away.