You may have heard the term herniated disc as an injury commonly suffered by athletes like bodybuilders and weightlifters.
The vertebrae are the bony building blocks of the spine. In between each vertebra are intervertebral discs. These discs act as shock absorbers when making locomotor movements that involve the spine, like walking and lifting.
Wear and tear, improper posture and overuse cause these discs to degenerate and later become herniated.
Spine-related injuries are generally alarming to most people, so it’s understandable herniated discs could cause concern. However, there’s a lot of misinformation surrounding this injury.
Here are some of the most common misconceptions about herniated discs and the facts behind each one:
Myth #1: They always cause pain
Sometimes, but not always.
If you’re going to cause stress to your back by bending, lifting or twisting, then it might cause pain. You may feel an electric shock radiate from your lower back to your lower legs and feet. Sneezing, coughing, bending forward, driving and even sitting can cause pain as well.
Lying flat on your back with your knees bent will relieve the downward pressure on the disc, and therefore lessen the pain you’ll feel.
Myth #2: You cannot do workouts
You can still go to the gym. But with limited capacity.
In fact, exercises are often important parts of recovery from herniated disks. Doing gentle exercises will strengthen the muscles that support the spine. These may also reduce the risk of a herniated disk from recurring.
Exercises that you need to avoid include:
- Hamstring stretches
- Squats and deadlifts
- Martial arts
Exercises that you can do include:
- Walking or light jogging
- Kneeling fallbacks
- Bridges, nordic hamstring curls
Before returning to the gym, make sure you’ve talked with your doctor about your condition. Don’t overwork yourself, keep your workouts light to prevent the herniation from getting worse.
Myth #3: Surgery is the only option
No. There are many non-surgical options available to treat herniated discs, like rest, anti-inflammatories and physical therapy. These will depend on the level of the herniation.
The non-surgical treatments include:
- Medications – you may be prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to relieve pain, inflammation and stiffness
- Physical therapy – this might include exercises, massages and thermotherapy
- Spinal injections – injections like intradiscal ozone injections help reduce inflammations and swelling of the affected area
The University of Michigan conducted a study on the need for surgery for herniated discs. They found out there is no clear evidence that surgery is more helpful than nonsurgical treatments for a lumbar herniated disc. It added 67% of patients who didn’t undergo surgery had almost to no recurring symptoms of herniation after one year of treatment.
Myth #4: Your spine won’t be normal again
False. You may be asked by your doctor to stop going to work or the gym while you receive treatment. With the right type of treatment, you can return to a 100 percent level of function without pain.
Despite many false claims, herniated discs aren’t as scary as it’s made out to be. Now, you know the common misconceptions surrounding herniated discs and the truths behind them. If you’re suffering from radiating pain from your lower back down to your legs, get yourself checked for signs of herniated discs.