A herniated disc often called a slipped disc, is a medical condition in which a disc of the spine ruptures or breaks open. This can cause pain, numbness, and weakness in the back and extremities. Herniated discs are most commonly found in the lower back, but they can also occur in other parts of the spine. There are many ways to prevent herniated discs, including staying active and fit, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding excessive twisting and bending motions, strengthening your core muscles, and using good posture. In addition, seeing a chiropractor on a regular basis can help keep your spine healthy and reduce your risk of developing a herniated disc. Let’s explore what exactly causes this issue and six ways to prevent it.
Herniated Disc 101
The spine is made up of bones, discs, and ligaments. The discs are rubbery cushions that sit between the vertebrae, or bones, of the spine. These discs act as shock absorbers for the spine and help protect it from injury. Each disc has a tough outer layer and a soft inner core. A herniated disc occurs when the inner core of the disc ruptures through the outer layer and pushes out into the spinal canal. If not treated, it can cause spondylosis which is difficult to handle later on. This can happen due to a traumatic injury, repetitive motions, or simply due to aging and wear and tear on the discs. When a disc herniates, it can press on nearby nerves and cause pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in the extremities. In severe cases, it can even lead to paralysis.
Many risk factors can increase your chances of developing a herniated disc. These include:
- Aging: As we age, the discs in our spine begin to deteriorate and lose water content, making them more susceptible to injury.
- Obesity: Excess weight puts additional strain on the spine and discs.
- Smoking: Smoking decreases blood flow to the discs, which speeds up the degenerative process.
- Sedentary lifestyle: Lack of exercise leads to muscle weakness, including in the core muscles that support the spine.
- Poor posture: Poor posture puts unnecessary strain on the spine and can lead to injuries.
- Repetitive motions: Repetitive motions, such as bending and lifting, can put a strain on the discs and lead to herniation.
- Traumatic injury: A sudden impact or fall can cause a disc to rupture.
1. Staying Active And Fit
The first way to prevent a herniated disc is to stay active and fit. Exercise helps to strengthen the muscles around the spine and discs, which can help support the spine and prevent injuries. In addition, staying active helps to maintain a healthy weight, which puts less strain on the spine. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. This could include walking, biking, swimming, or other activities that you enjoy. If you haven’t been active recently, start slowly and gradually increase your activity level over time. Maintaining a healthy weight is important for preventing a herniated disc. Excess weight puts additional strain on the spine and discs, which can lead to injury. Aim to maintain a healthy weight by eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly. If you need help losing weight, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian.
2. Avoiding Excessive Twisting And Bending Motions
Another way to prevent a herniated disc is to avoid excessive twisting and bending motions. These types of movements put unnecessary strain on the discs and can lead to injury. When lifting something heavy, for example, be sure to use proper form and lift with your legs, not your back. In addition, avoid activities that require you to twist your spines, such as golf or tennis.
3. Strengthening Your Core Muscles
Strengthening your core muscles is important for preventing a herniated disc. The core muscles help support the spine and if they are weak, the spine is more likely to be injured. Many different exercises can help strengthen your core muscles. Some examples include crunches, sit-ups, and plank exercises.
4. Improving Your Posture
Improving your posture is another way to prevent a herniated disc. Poor posture puts unnecessary strain on the spine and can lead to injuries. When sitting, be sure to keep your back straight and your shoulders relaxed. When standing, keep your weight evenly distributed on both feet. And when sleeping, sleep on your side or your back with a pillow under your knees for support.
5. Seeing A Chiropractor Regularly
Seeing a chiropractor regularly can also help prevent a herniated disc. Chiropractors are trained in spinal manipulation and can help to align the spine, which takes the pressure off of the discs. In addition, they can provide exercises and stretches to help strengthen the muscles around the spine. For example, the chiropractor may recommend the following exercises:
- The Cobra: Lie on your stomach with your legs straight. Place your palms flat on the ground next to your chest. Slowly lift your head and chest off the ground, holding for a few seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat.
- The Pelvic Tilt: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Tighten your abdominal muscles and press your lower back to the ground. Hold for a few seconds and then relax. Repeat 10 times.
These are just a few examples of exercises that can help prevent a herniated disc. For more specific exercises, talk to your chiropractor or another healthcare provider.
6. Wearing Low-Heeled Shoes
Wearing low-heeled shoes is also important for preventing a herniated disc. High-heeled shoes can alter your posture and put unnecessary strain on your spine. In addition, they can cause you to walk with an abnormal gait, which can lead to injuries. Aim to wear low-heeled shoes that provide support and are comfortable to walk in.
A herniated disc is a common spine injury that can cause pain, numbness, and weakness. There are several things you can do to prevent a herniated disc, including maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding excessive twisting and bending motions, and even wearing low-heeled shoes. By taking these precautions, you can help to prevent a herniated disc and keep your spine healthy.