Last time, we began an examination of Herniated lumbar disc, a condition that is one of the most common causes of lower back pain and sciatica (leg pain). This week, we conclude that examination by examining common risk factors and treatment options.
Factors that increase the risk of a herniated disk may include:
- Gender. Men between the ages of 30 and 50 are most likely to have a herniated disk.
- Genetics. Some people inherit a predisposition to developing a herniated disk.
- Improper lifting. Using the back muscles to lift heavy objects, instead of the legs, can cause a herniated disk. Using safe lifting and movement techniques can help protect the back.
- Occupation. People with physically demanding jobs have a greater risk of back problems. Repetitive lifting, pulling, pushing, bending sideways and twisting increase the risk of a herniated disk.
- Repetitive activities. Physically demanding jobs that require constant lifting, pulling, bending, or twisting also increase the chance of disc herniation.
- Sedentary lifestyle. Regular exercise is important in preventing many medical conditions, including a herniated disk. Staying seated for long periods can put pressure on the spine and disks.
- Weight. Excess body weight causes extra stress on the disks of the lower back.
Generally, a herniated lumbar disk will slowly improve over a period of several days to weeks. Typically, most patients are free of symptoms within 3 to 4 months. However; some patients do experience episodes of pain during their recovery. In this case, non-surgical treatment may be a viable alternative
Because it is not clear that nonsurgical care is any better than letting the condition resolve on its own, the primary focus of non-surgical treatment is to provide relief from pain.
Common nonsurgical measures include:
- Anti-inflammatory medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like ibuprofen or naproxen may relieve pain.
- Rest. Usually 1-2 days of bed rest will relieve severe back pain. Taking rest breaks throughout the day is a good idea, but patients should avoid sitting for long periods of time, as that can make symptoms worsen. All movements should be slow and controlled. A change in daily activities may be necessary to avoid movements that can cause further pain, especially bending forward and lifting.
- Physical therapy. Specific exercises can strengthen the lower back and abdominal muscles.
- Epidural steroid injection. In this procedure, steroids are injected into the patient’s back to reduce local inflammation.
Overall, the most effective nonsurgical care for lumbar herniated disk includes observation and an epidural steroid injection for short-term pain relief.
If there are neurological deficits such as muscle weakness, difficulty walking, or cauda equina syndrome, surgical treatment may be the only alternative. However; as always, surgery should be viewed as a last resort.
If you are experiencing back pain, don’t wait for your family physician; visit Excel Rehabilitation Services on Burnside Ave. in Gonzales, Louisiana. You will receive one-on-one care from an experienced physical therapist!