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Treating Herniated Disc Back Pain
One of the most common causes of lower back pain is a herniated disc, which occurs when the gel-like center portion of the disc begins to move or bulge, putting pressure on the ends of the disc. If the disc migrates too far, significant pressure can compress the nerve root and cause pain, numbness and weakness down the leg. This condition is called sciatica.
Herniated discs may result from a trauma such as a car accident or by lifting something extremely heavy. Most often, though, herniated discs are the result of everyday activities that put pressure on the discs, such as repeated improper bending at the waist to pick up objects and excessive sitting, especially with poor posture.
“There are options for treating a herniated disc, including epidural or steroid injections and surgery for severe cases, but physical therapy has proven to be just as effective in most cases,” says Tom Zeiser, DPT, of Good Shepherd Physical Therapy-Macungie. “An evaluation by a physical therapist will lead to an individualized patient plan for treatment.”
Treating a herniated disc with physical therapy will usually involve core strengthening and flexibility exercises and education on posture, properlifting techniques and activities to avoid. To control pain as the disc heals, moist heat, electrical stimulation/TENS and soft tissue mobilization may be part of the treatment plan.
“The goal in treating a herniated disc is to help each patient overcome his or her pain and prevent it from returning,” says Zeiser. “The first step is to be seen by a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician, like those at Good Shepherd’s Spine & Joint Center, and then to consider physical therapy as an effective option for treatment.”