The Pain & Injury Doctor ONLINE Newsletter

Here is your latest pain relief tip. If it doesn’t apply to you, still take note because life is full of surprises. If you know someone who is dealing with this type of pain, please forward this email to that person– thanks!

Acute, Painful Lumbar Disc Herniation

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What is Happening:

The disc’s jelly-like center, called the nucleus pulposus has punctured through the circumferential fibers of the disc but is still being held in by the last few layers, which are now bowed out past the disc’s periphery. Inflammation sets in– swelling, heat, pain.

Because of the spine’s architecture, herniated discs almost always travel towards the back and to the left or right side, which is where the nerve roots exit. That is why herniated discs are often associated with leg pain, numbness or tingling, as those nerve roots form the sciatic nerve (main nerve of the legs).

Here is the convention for naming disc bulges, from least severity to most:

1. bulge
2. protrusion
3. herniation
4. rupture
5. sequestration (detached)

Don’t be alarmed if you get an MRI and see “multiple disc bulges” because some bulging is normal; after all, the disc is fluid and changes shape. Standing makes them bulge out a little.

In general, disc bulges greater than 7 mm start to generate symptoms especially if they press on a nerve root. But if you have an internal disc tear with minimum bulge, it too can be very painful.

The most common disc to herniate is between the 4th and 5th lumbar vetebrae (L4/5), then the disc between the L5 vertebrae and sacrum (L5/S1).

Recommended Home Therapy Products Covered in Today’s Newsletter:

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Self-Treating an Acute, Lumbar Disc Bulge

Disc herniations, although they sound scary, in most cases can be managed at home. However, if you have numbness down the leg that persists, see your doctor and get an MRI to assess it. Oftentimes, the pain is worse than the injury.

If you experience any change in your urination following your injury, go to the emergency room. In rare cases, disc bulges can press on nerves that control renal/ urinary function.

Be prepared to be “incapacitated” for at least day, and in pain.  This unfortunately is unavoidable.  The procedures here are intended to shorten the time it takes for you to get back to your usual routine:

First of all, don’t make it worse! No heavy lifting, prolonged sitting or bending at the waist for at least 2-3 weeks.

Ice. Lie on your back on a firm surface (not a soft bed), place a frozen gel ice pack (about 12″ x 12″) under your low back touching your skin (first, put a thin kitchen towelette on top the ice pack). Bend your knees 45 degrees to flatten your lumbar spine, and a rolled towel or cervical roll pillow under your neck for comfort. Lie down for 20 minutes; repeat every two waking hours. Do for at least three days.

Optionally, use a TENS unit to help block the pain. You can do TENS while you ice, and while you apply an infrared lamp:

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TENS Unit Muscle Stimulator for Pain Management

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulators (TENS) send small, pulsed electrical currents through your skin which are picked up by sensory nerves in the area. These electrical signals “compete” with nerve pain signals generated from an injured/ painful area; thus reducing their perception in the brain.

The electrical pulses can also disrupt involuntary muscle contractions (spasms) in the lower back.

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You will find that simple movements, like getting out of bed or standing from a chair will be painful. Use a cane, walking stick or a broom handle as a “third leg” that uses your arm muscles instead of your back muscles. Better yet, it’s a good idea to have a walker handy, as it work well for this purpose.

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Walker

You don’t have to be a senior citizen to buy one of these! Very helpful for episodes of acute low back pain. Grip the lower handles to help yourself stand from a seated position; use the upper handles for assisted walking.

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Don’t worry about stretching or getting chiropractic or PT at this point, because when your disc is “hot” and painful there is not much that can be done manually. Focus on rest and ice until the severity decreases.

After the pain has gone down or after 4 days from the onset, use an infrared lamp on your low back to stimulate blood flow to the low back.

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Infrared Heat Lamp

This lamp is popular with acupuncturists, chiropractors and physical therapists. It delivers deep-penetrating infrared light and heat to muscles and joints. Infrared light increases cellular ATP production (energy) which enhances healing of injured tissues and reduces inflammation. The heat increases local circulation, delivering more oxygen and nutrients to the treated area. Great for treating thick muscles, shoulder joints, spinal discs, knees, hips and spine.

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Formula 303 is a natural pain reliever that may be helpful in taking the edge off your pain:

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Formula 303 Natural Pain Reliever

Formula 303 is a natural pain relief supplement for muscle spasm & leg cramps; tension, stress, anxiety, insomnia, fibromyalgia, menstrual cramps and other forms of muscle pain. It contains 6 parts valerian root (quad-strength); 1x 3 parts passiflora (quad-strength); 1x 1 part magnesium carbonate.

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After the pain has improved 75%, attempt back extension exercises to push the bulge back to center (check with a back pain specialist). Start with lying on your stomach on a firm surface and raise your torso, resting on your elbows, head up. Hold for 30 seconds, lower yourself and repeat six times. As it gets easier, raise your torso higher by extending your elbows and resting on your palms. If this causes the pain to be worse, do not do, and check with a specialist.

Watch this video that demonstrates proper back extension exercises:

Avoid activities that can aggravate your disc for the next three months. Continue with exercises designed to move bulging discs back to center. Work in partnership with a PT, personal trainer or chiropractor qualified in the McKenzie technique.

Evaluate what led to your disc herniation, and take measures to reduce those risk factors. Many people get injured lifting things wrong or certain sports/recreational activities. If your job requires prolonged sitting, know that this squeezes fluids out of your discs and makes them weak, so consider using a stand up desk:

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Varidesk Height Adjustable Desk

Studies show that prolonged sitting is detrimental to your health. Not only is it associated with lower back pain, the inactivity of sitting causes your postural and core muscles to weaken and lose some coordination, which further risks injuring your low back. HDL cholesterol levels rise from prolonged sitting as well.

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Place this lightweight desk on top of your traditional sit-down desk, place your monitor and keyboard on it and switch its height between standing and sitting in less than three seconds. Choose the standing position for several 30 minute intervals throughout the day to neutralize the health-damaging effects of prolonged sitting.

The VariDesk is a practical, relatively low cost investment in your health.

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Basically, modify what you do so that it doesn’t put excessive pressure on your discs.

To enhance repair and regeneration of your disc, create conditions in your body for optimal healing:

  • Eat wholesome, nutritious meals featuring green vegetables, protein (organic meats) and good fats (nuts, olives, fish, avocado, coconut). Bone broth soup is highly recommended for all types of joint problems.
  • Take high potency anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory supplements
  • Get 8 hours restful sleep each day. Sleep is when your body repairs and regenerates itself.
  • Avoid toxin ingestion: sugar, processed food, tobacco, alcohol

Use the Elliptical Back Rocker daily to pump your lumbar discs, keeping them hydrated and healthy. This device can also reduce disc bulging in the lumbar spine with repeated use.

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PosturePump™ Elliptical Back Rocker

The elliptical back rocker is designed to reduce disc bulges by spreading lumbar vertebrae apart while extending the lumbar spine in an arc using special “elliptical” air bladders inflated by hand pumps. The pumping action draws in fluids and nutrients into thinning/ bulging discs, rehydrating them. This can slow down degenerative disc disease. It is a good device to have for low back pain prevention.

Watch this video to see how it works:

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Lastly, when the acute pain is all gone, you may want to try home spinal decompression to help further reduce the disc bulge. The Nubax Trio, Back Bubble and Gravity Inversion table are all good for this.

BOTTOM LINE:  If you experience sudden, sharp pain in your lower back after lifting something heavy or bending at the waist, chances are you herniated a disc in your lumbar spine. While most disc bulges can be self-managed without surgery it is best to check in with a specialist who can evaluate the extent of your injury. Numbness or weakness in the legs and/or changes in your urinary function following your injury require a visit to the doctor. Barring any serious scenario, the methods described here can help you recover faster from a herniated disc.

These are some of the products I recommend to patients who experienced a herniated disc. Most patients report good to great results; therefore, you have a very good chance of experiencing the same results.  They are generally safe to use, but check with your doctor. ~Dr. Perez

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For more detailed, step-by-step guidance on permanently resolving chronic muscle and joint pain, visit

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The information contained in this email and on www.PainandInjuryDoctor.com is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as a medical directive. It is provided as a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of Dan Perez, D.C. Every person is unique, and individual cases of pain are therefore unique. Dr. Perez encourages readers of PainandInjuryDoctor.com to use available sources of information to help them make a more educated and informed decision regarding their health, in partnership with one or more qualified health care professionals.

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