Lumbar Disk Herniations

kevin shrewsbury physical therapist

By Kevin Scott, DPT, Atlantic Physical Therapy Center

Atlantic Physical Therapy Center is happy to partner with Ocean County Sports Medicine to bring you a video series on low back pain and disc herniation. In part 1, we discuss spinal anatomy; in part 2, signs and symptoms, and in part 3, exercises for disc herniation.

Low back pain (LBP) is very common and more than 80 percent of adults will experience LBP in their lifetime.  A common cause of LBP can be due to a herniated disk especially in the young and mid adult populations. Typically, disk herniations are not a one-time incident or injury. Disk herniations typically start slowly and will progress over time due to postural impairments, abnormal movement mechanics or flexibility imbalances.  Forward bending at the waist, pain first thing in the morning putting on socks and shoes and pain with prolonged periods of sitting and driving are the hallmark signs of having a disc herniation.

The bones of the lumbar spine have a cushion between them called the intervertebral disk. This disk has a tough outer ring, called an annulus, and the center of the ring has a soft, jelly-like substance called the nucleus pulposus. Just behind the disk you can find the spinal cord and the spinal nerve roots, structures that carry messages between the nervous system and the rest of the body. When the disk bulges and applies pressure upon either the spinal cord or nerve root, pain will be reproduced and sciatica symptoms will occur. Nerve irritation can also cause feelings of numbness, tingling, muscle weakness, or loss of feeling in the back and legs.

To avoid worsening of your back pain, you may need to avoid repeated bending, lifting, or twisting. Your physical therapist can teach you how to stay active, which is very important in healing. You can learn exercises that stretch and strengthen, and learn how to care for your spine and stay healthy in the future.

Check out part 1 of the video series below on “Spinal Anatomy” and stay tuned for future videos in the series!


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