A Common Source Of Chronic Back Pain
Did you know studies show that 80-90% of all Americans will suffer from back pain at some time in their life? Some will have pain that comes and goes. Others will experience pain that stays and becomes chronic. Many times, back pain that comes and goes gradually becomes chronic if it is not treated properly. So, what causes back pain?
Most back pain is mechanical in nature. This means, in most cases it is caused by your spine not moving and working properly. Back pain can also be caused from diseases and tumors, but this is the minority of cases. Your spine is made up of a 24 individual bones that stack up on each other like blocks. Between every two bones is a vertebral disc. These discs are like a jelly doughnut. They are soft and jelly-like on the inside, protected by a tough exterior. These discs help to “glue” your spinal bones together and also serve as shock absorbers for your spine. Because of the way your spine is designed, your spinal bones can move freely – allowing you to bend forward, backward, side-to-side and twist.
Here’s where the problem starts: your spinal bones can move a little too far, especially during an accident or in the process of strenuous physical activity. When this occurs, the tough outer material of your disc and the surrounding ligaments that help hold the spinal bones in place can be stretched. When ligaments are stretched, it is called a sprain.
Now when you move, your spine doesn’t move as smoothly as it should. The stress and strain of normal movement causes more stretching of the disc and ligaments. It also can cause inflammation and pain. This is similar to the front end of your car. When it is out of alignment, your wheels wear unevenly and quicker then they should. So now, your spine is wearing unevenly and quicker than it should. This is called degenerative joint disease or arthritis. As time goes on, more damage is done. And eventually, the outer layers of your disc wear out and tear. When that happens, the soft jelly-like substance inside can start to leak out. This leakage is what we called a bulging or herniated disc.
A herniated disc can cause major problems. Depending on where it leaks out, it can pinch on the nerves or spinal chord and cause severe pain and/or numbness to where ever those nerves go. The nerves in the lower back go down into your legs. That’s why herniated lumbar (low back) discs often cause symptoms in your legs.
The herniated disc we described above came from a period of abnormal wear and tear on the spine. A herniated disc can also come from one severe trauma such as a car accident or slip and fall. No matter how the damage was caused (over time or by one severe trauma), once it occurs it starts this vicious cycle of more and more abnormal wear and tear… and… of course… pain. This vicious cycle will continue until the disc and spinal joint mechanics are fixed properly.
Bulging and Herniated Disc Symptoms
It is possible to have a major herniated disc and never experience a single symptom. If the disc is located away from nerve roots and has no contact with muscles or tendons, you could go through life without noticing it. However, it can also lead to some of the most severe neck and back pain we treat. Most patients with bulging discs experience:
- Sharp and spreading pain in one particular part of the back or neck
- Irritation in the rib cage, thighs, arms, or shoulders
- Numbness through extremities affected by the disc
- Muscle weakness
- Reduced reflexes
Understanding The Common Causes & Risks
Some people are born with disc deformities and herniation, while others are surprised to learn about the problem and can’t remember the exact cause. Nearly any form of damage to the spine could rupture or tear a spinal disc. A few of the most common causes include:
- Sudden trauma to the spine, such as a car accident
- Overwhelming strain due to heavy lifting
- A simple sneeze that puts unexpected force on the spine
- Repetitive activities and actions that involve the back or neck
- Wear and tear that comes with age
- Sitting for too long with poor posture
There are numerous risk factors that have been linked to herniated disc issues. While some simply can’t be changed, others are lifestyle choices. Spinal damage risks factors include:
- Growing older, due to the natural degeneration of the discs
- Jobs that involve sitting for long periods of time or heavy lifting
- Staying sedentary and allowing your back muscles to lose strength
- Gaining excess weight, which strains the spine further
- Being male
- Smoking cigarettes
- Eating a poor diet that doesn’t provide the nutrients required for joint and disc health
What Are The Risks Of Surgery?
Most of the time, surgery attempts to relieve pain by cutting out the herniated part of the disc. Techniques are much better today than in the past, but this is still an invasive procedure on your spine. Cutting around your spine, spinal chord and nerves should never be thought of as a simple, 100% safe procedure.
Results are not always what you expect and many patients do not get better at all, even after months of grueling rehabilitation and post-operative pain medication. The official term for this outcome is “Failed Back Surgery Syndrome”, and can have far-reaching consequences beyond permanent back pain. Surgery limits future treatment options, and may, in fact, ensure a lifetime of pain, suffering, and disability.
Even when surgery is “successful” it does not “heal” the disc. Surgery usually cuts out the herniated or bulging part of the disc and may fuse the area. This puts abnormal stress on the remaining spinal discs and can lead to more herniations and even more surgeries. That’s not even counting the time you will need to recover and the powerful medication you have to take for post-surgical pain.
Powerful, Non-Invasive, & Drug-Free Treatment Options
We offer a selection of innovative treatments that provide effective pain relief and promote long term healing, which include:
- Spinal Decompression Therapy and chiropractic spinal manipulation to release pressure on the affected disc or discs
- Class IV DIOWAVE Laser Therapy
- Injections of cortisone to provide long term pain relief without dangerous medications
- Massage to relieve swelling or tension
- Tracking of bulging discs that aren’t causing symptoms
- Medically supervised weight loss to relieve strain on the entire spine
The Initial Visit
When you arrive for your first visit, Dr. Helms or a member of Colorado Regenerative Health staff will spend time with you collecting your patient history. This information will be used to evaluate your condition, so a treatment plan can be customized to your specific needs. Treatment options will be recommended and discussed based on your symptoms, which will be incorporated into your treatment plan. The effectiveness of any treatment plan relies on your participation, so we encourage you to be active in promoting your healing and recovery.
Free Consultation For Your Bulging / Herniated Disc
If you are suffering from a bulging or herniated disc, Dr. Helms and the team at Colorado Regenerative Health are ready to help. Book your free consultation today by calling our Castle Rock medical office at (303) 872-7161.