Resolving Disc Injuries
Resolving a disc injury is a combination of removing any type of mechanical restriction that is causing stress on the disc and avoiding all physical stresses that are perpetuating the disc problem. Initially, disc injuries can be incredibly painful, it may seem that surgery will be the inevitable outcome. Fortunately the majority of disc injury patients do not require surgery, in fact less than 5% of patients do.
This is a good thing to keep in mind as you are going through therapy. The length of time therapy takes to resolve a disc injury depends on several factors; the severity of the disc problem, the length of time you have had the problem, your age, and your physical condition to begin with.
For acute disc injuries, ice should be initially applied for the first 72 hours to reduce pain, inflammation, swelling, and muscle spasms. For the lumbar spine one of the most effective ways to ice the area is either ice massage or wet ice. Wet ice refers to putting crushed ice in a bag which is then covered by a wet towel. This will lower the temperature of the affected area very quickly to reduce pain and inflammation.
After 72 hours, heat can be applied to the affected area to increase blood flow and reduce muscle spasms; even the deeper structures such as facet joints can benefit from heat therapy.
In the acute stage of injury resting for a maximum of two days can be helpful. On the other hand, the sooner the patient can return to normal activities the faster the recovery will be. Disc injuries are not a condition that you can wait for symptoms to resolve before returning to your activities.
Performing Activities of Daily Living
When you have a disc injury all your daily activities should be performed in a way that will not aggravate your condition. This may require you to reduce your range-of-motion when performing a task, move more through your hips than your back and brace your core before moving or lifting any object.
Another essential action you have to perform is listening to your body. If your body tells you the way you are performing this action really hurts, listen to it. Basically, if you try to work through the pain you are experiencing you will only do more damage to your body turning an acute problem into a chronic one.
Activities that are especially damaging to the discs in your back are actions that involve any repetitive motions performed in a flexed spinal position. This is particularly true if you are lifting heavy loads in this position. Even lifting minimal loads can lead to considerable disc damage if the task is performed repetitively in a flexed position.
Removing any type of mechanical restriction that causes stress on the disc will be of great benefit. The specific physical restrictions that need to be addressed with manual procedures (MSR, ART, Graston, Massage, Manipulation) in a disc injury will vary depending on the individual.
Determining which areas need to be addressed will depend on biomechanical analysis and palpation of the affected areas.
Imbalances increase stress on the discs of your back which perpetuate or cause further injury. Fortunately, those spinal imbalances can be addressed with manual procedures. When these procedures are combined with dynamic exercises to re-establish normal motor control good results are often seen.
If you are having trouble with a disc injury have Dr. Abelson, or one of his associates, review you case to see if manual therapy can help you.