We treat a lot of patients who suffer from disc pathologies, be they bulges or herniations. Most of these people are active and want to continue to be active. The problem they encounter is that they get pain in the low back with activity that many times goes into the gluteal region (on one side or another…or both) and sometimes goes down the leg(s) into the feet. This makes it hard for them to partake in sport.
A disc bulge or herniation is a serious condition. The damaged disc creates localized inflammation that can chemically irritate nerves and create burning pain. If the disc is physically compressing the spinal cord or nerve roots (the nerves as they exit the spine on either side), then the patient can have tingling and numbing down an extremity. Unless this condition is contained, the activity level will be compromised. We can point out here that in regards to ‘sciatica’, which is all too often used, ‘sciatica’ only refers to tingling/numbing/pain below the knee.
When evaluating a patient suffering from disc problems, many components have to be considered. An MRI is a the gold standard diagnostic image to see what is going on, but even with this, clinical symptoms trump the MRI. We have to remember that an MRI does not tend to take into consideration compression and movement by the person, as the picture tends to be taken with the patient lying down. It also tends to be a static image. Even with sitting and bending MRIs, this is not the same as what occurs in the body with walking, running, jumping, etc… as the loads are quite different. The doctor needs to look at many pieces of information to help figure out how to best help the patient. Other components, such as an anti-inflammatory diet, along with proper amounts of alkalizing protein, is vital. Afterall, the body does need to heal! We also need to be sure extra body weight is not creating compression and that the patient has adequate core stability. If a patient is carrying too much weight and is lacking proper muscle tone, the additional weight can only work against the patient and will continue to do so until the patient gets healthier.
A disc problem cannot be treated in a general fashion. Disc bulges and herniations have specific protocols based on their presentation. In my 18+ years of treating disc problems, I have found that unless the chiropractor is Cox flexion/distraction certified, it’s unlikely that he/she has obtained the education necessary to fully understand how to treat disc pathology. The Cox technique (they call it a technic) is unmatched when it comes to treating cervical and lumbar disc problems. Both Dr. Manison and Dr. Surprenant are certified in this technique.
Treatment objectives include improving spinal biomechanics, reducing the disc bulge/herniation with disc decompression techniques, making sure the patient is nutritionally sound, working to create core stabilization, and eliminating the cause of the underlying problem. Sometimes, this requires addressing hip function and gait mechanics. Sometimes, knee tracking issues need to be addressed. Only when the cause of the problem is determined can proper rehabilitation work at its best.
If you are a runner , biker, triathlete, or partake in any other activity, and have low back pain/disc pathology that is affecting your ability to enjoy your activities, don’t give up until you’ve let us try to help you. In most circumstances, we can help you get back to the activities you love.