My herniated disc is acting up again doc, or maybe the pain is from something else?
For many of the years that I’ve been in practice, I have heard patients who were at one time diagnosed with a herniated disc in the back state that their disc problem has acted up. For those who do not understand what a herniated disc is, it is when one of the discs in your back experiences internal damage and the soft tissue in the middle called the nucleus breaks through the outer surface of the disc.
This painful condition can require months of care depending on its severity of it. I know, because it happened to me, twice.
The good news is that your problem may not be a herniated disc after all. Often, back problems are really mechanical problems with the way you walk. If you are built asymmetrically and one side of your body works differently than the other, it can create a shearing force through the lower back joints. Think of taking a piece of plastic and bending it back and forth until the material begins to break; this is how we develop those disc problems.
If it is not the disc then what is it?
For years, there has been growing evidence that the body will actually resorb and take care of a damaged disc on its own, and a new recent study suggests the same(1). The problem for most of us who have experienced a disc problem is that the disc may actually be only the symptom, yet most doctors will evaluate the pain and your back, and direct all treatment toward the disc with procedures, injections, surgeries, and rehabilitation that varies in effectiveness.
The truth is, most disc problems are caused by the way we move and walk and are problems with movement, rather than entities than inconveniently happen when lifting our children or grabbing for things. Understanding why you are hurt is the most important diagnostic step any health care provider must first take to help you get relief and resolution of your painful disc problem. Simply using an MRI to diagnose and then using therapies directed at the symptom is a poorly conceived notion that needs to be abandoned.
Correcting the reason for the herniated disc will allow it to heal and the body should take care of the rest.
How should you care for a disc problem?
A proper mechanical evaluation is required to do this. Sometimes, when someone is in acute pain, they cannot tolerate a full evaluation, so waiting for the pain to decrease is a good idea, however, ignoring that there is a problem once you are moving better or medicating it is a foolish approach since it will not fix itself.
Chiropractors are best trained to diagnose disc and movement-based issues in our bodies. Acute episodes can be effectively managed with a flexion-distraction table, sometimes called a Cox table, named after the doctor who developed the technique. Foot orthotics are quite helpful in managing patients who are asymmetrically built and corrective manipulations, as well as exercises, can retrain your gait, reducing the shearing forces that created the herniated discs in the first place in the lower back.
To understand how movement affects the discs in our back, you may want to read my book Cheating Mother Nature, what you need to know to beat chronic pain which explains who movement, and the way we walk results in these injuries. People who are more knowledgeable know that who you see first will determine the expense, cost, and outcome, which is why more people depend on chiropractors for back problems because their unique understanding of back problems, rehabilitation, and movement can help you get the best outcome.
1.Wen-Yen Hsu, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Wan Fang Hospital, Taipei Medical University, No. 111, Sec. 3, Xinglong Rd., Taipei 11696, Taiwan.
2. Read Cheating Mother Nature, available through Amazon.com and other booksellers.