Is The Health Care System Making You Sick?

 

 

Is The Health Care System Making You Sick?

 

'The health care system has failed in keeping us healthy.'

 

Many developed countries around the world follow a similar system of looking after and treating the ill and infirmed. Mostly, we refer to this as 'The Health Care System'. But is it possible that this system that so many people depend on, unquestioningly, could be actually making us sicker?

 

 

The current strategy of our health care system is to diagnose and treat sickness and disease. And there is no doubt that there is a need for this kind of intervention when you are sick.

However in order for the system to work you have to get sick first. It's like closing the gate after the horse has bolted, right? So in actual fact, this is really a sickness care system, not a health care system at all!

While this system is great once you become sick, it does nothing to promote or maintain better health.

In fact, there is now more heart disease, more cancer, more diabetes, more arthritis and more chronic disease in the world than ever before! Even though we are living longer than we ever have, we simply are not living better.

Now we want to be perfectly clear right up front, HealthySpines.org is in no way anti-medicine or anti-doctors. The things that modern medicine can do now are miraculous, and the bottom line is that it can, and does, save millions of lives.

 

But the reality is this. The ‘health care system’ has failed in keeping us healthy.

 

Billions of dollars are poured into medical research every year, and we continually develop newer machines and better, more accurate medical tests that enable us to detect disease at it's earliest stages. And lets be very clear here, it still means you have to have the disease first.

Too often we place our trust in the hands of the system that has been developed by the pharmaceutical industry (read 'big business') to basically get us taking their products. That is, drugs and medications, and to take them for as long as possible. And don't be fooled, these guys are out to make money. Full stop!

It is well known now that most medications are simply designed to cover up the symptoms, and not actually affect the underlying cause of the disease, or offer any kind of cure. eg. Statin type drugs will lower your cholesterol. No doubt. But why would your body be making all that extra cholesterol in the first place? And who determines when it is too much? (Not to mention that there is NOT ONE scientific study that shows that statins have prevented even one heart attack! However, there is plenty of research that shows having LOW levels of cholesterol are linked to higher incidence of dementia!) Did your doctor forget to tell you that?

It is also well known that all medications also carry associated risks, which have been labelled as 'side effects'.

 

What does that even mean? Are they the effects of the drug that happen to the side of the effects that we want?

NO! Side effects are just the other effects that the drug has on your body. It's like saying bleeding is a side effect of being stabbed in the leg! Side effects are a result of taking the medication, full stop!

For example, if you take enough anti-inflammatory medications, you run a real risk of a gastrointestinal bleed. That is because one of the effects of the drug, as well as decreasing the inflammatory response (that is really just a part of your bodies healing process, read more here) is that it also eats away at the lining of your stomach. And ALL medications have some kind of so-called 'side effects'. Statins (cholesterol medication) are well known to cause body aches and pains. Sorry, they don't 'cause' it, it is a side-effect. Apparently.

Unfortunately, the health care system response to this is usually more medication to counter the 'side effects' of the other meds you are taking! It seems ridiculous, but this is the way it works. And all the time your health is going down hill, because the pills are not improving your health in the first place, they are only hiding the symptoms of being sick.

It is for this reason that by becoming dependent on the 'sickness care system' you are only going to become slowly sicker.

 

So how do you beat it?

Frankly, you have to take it upon yourself to learn about health and well-being. What it is, and what you need to do improve and maintain good health. Then you have to take action on what you have learnt. Make some changes if you need to.

It is completely up to us to take the steps to stay vibrantly healthy. And it is simple, old-fashioned advice that rings true. Remain active and get regular exercise. Eat lots of fresh, healthy foods. Simple as that.

You can read more about healthy choices here.

Unfortunately we can't rely on a system that is so entrenched in it's way of thinking about sickness and disease. And because that system is worth trillions of dollars, the government is not going to rock that boat any time soon, you can be sure.

All we are really saying is that you need to make informed choices about your health.

Only when we take it upon ourselves to become educated about health, and then take the necessary action to be truly healthy, can we become less dependant on a 'sickness care' system (that will leave you stuck on the pharmaceutical roller coaster).

That is a true health care strategy!

 

If you have any questions, or would like to share your own experience, please leave us a comment below.

Also, if you have found this article helpful, please share it so we can help even more people! Thankyou.

 

Spondylolisthesis In The Lumbar Spine? You Can Treat It Right At Home!

 

Spondylolisthesis In The Lumbar Spine

 

Spondylolisthesis in the lumbar spine occurs when one of the spinal lumbar vertebra slips forward on the one below. It can also occur in the neck (cervical vertebra), but is much more common in the lower back.

In some cases spondylolisthesis can lead to compression of the spinal cord and/or the spinal nerves. This may cause back leg pain as well as possible numbness or tingling in the legs. Often the symptoms are hard to distinguish from spinal disc problems. Bad cases of spondylolisthesis can affect bowel and bladder function, and you should see a health professional if this is the case. Luckily most cases of spondylolisthesis in the lumbar spine can be easily treated right in your own home using some simple exercises. Read on!

 

 

 

spondyWhat Is Spondylolisthesis?

Spondylolisthesis is the result of fractures in the pars interarticularis (towards the back or posterior aspect of the vertebra) that allows the vertebral body to slip forwards on the one below. It is known to be a fairly common cause of lower back and leg pain in younger adults and teens as the result of a spinal fracture, and in older adults as a result of degenerative change in the spine. It is usually graded from 1 to 5 depending on the amount of forward slippage. Spondylolisthesis is often due to hyper-extension (backwards bending) injuries of the spine. It is commonly seen in gymnasts and other sports people.

 

 

 

 

 

Spondylolisthesis can be classified in to 5 different types or causes.

1.Isthmic. This is the most common form of spondylolisthesis and is estimated to affect 5-7{95f364b8aea3ba4afb976a81c1dcc2e8147daac1866ef443968911255633a999} of the population, although it mostly does not cause any symptoms. It occurs when there is a small fracture in the pars interarticularis, a part of the bone at the back of the spinal vertebra.

This fracture is not usually a result of a trauma, but rather it is caused by an accumulation of stress on the bone and rarely will cause pain when it happens. Isthmic spondylolisthesis usually occurs at quite a young age (between 5 and 16 years of age), but may go unnoticed until you are an adult.

It is more common in sports, particularly gymnastics and weight lifting.

2. Degenerative. Degenerative change of the spinal facet joints can lead to instability and weakening of the Ligamentum Flavum, allowing the affected vertebra to slide forward on the one below.

3. Traumatic. Occurs very rarely when there is an acute fracture to the spinal vertebra, other than at the pars interarticularis.

4. Pathological. As a result of damage to the vertebra due to bone disease such as tumours, metastases, or Paget’s disease.

5. Dysplastic. A rare congenital condition due to malformation of the spine.

 

Symptoms of Spondylolisthesis.

The most common symptom of spondylolisthesis is lower back pain. This is often worse after exercise, especially activities that involve extension (leaning backwards) of the lumbar spine.

Leg pain is also common, especially pain that runs from the lower back to the buttocks and down the backs of the legs.

Other symptoms may include tightness of the hamstrings and decreased range of motion of the lower back. It may even cause difficulty walking.

Some patients can develop numbness, tingling or weakness in the legs due to nerve compression.

Severe compression of the nerves can cause loss of control of bowel or bladder function, or cauda equina syndrome. This is considered a medical emergency, and you should seek medical attention.

 

How To Treat Spondylolisthesis At Home

Try these simple exercises that are well known to help relieve back pain caused by spondylolisthesis.

 

Knees to Chest

1. Curl up into a ball. Spondylolisthesis is aggravated by spinal extension, so by pulling your knees to your chest, you are bringing your spine into a more flexed position. Start by lying on your back, them simply pull both of your knees to your chest and hold them there for 10-30 seconds.

 

 

Low Back Stretch

2. Cat Stretch. Similar to curling up into a ball, cat stretches bring your spine into flexion. Start in a kneeling position, then sit back onto you feet. Stretch your arms out in front of you along the floor. Feel the stretch in your low back and hold for 10 seconds.

 

 

Plank1

3. Planks. Building abdominal strength helps to give some stability to your spine, and prevents over-extension.  Basically, you need to hold still in a push-up position. Start kneeling on the floor on your hands and knees. Keep both shoulder width apart. If you have not done these before, slowly walk your hands out until your body is in a straight line, hands below the shoulders. You can hold it here, or come down to rest on your elbows, keeping them directly below the shoulders. Keep your body straight and rigid, like a plank or a bridge (see where the name comes from!).

 

Sit ups4. Sit-ups.  Sit-ups are great for really getting your abs strong. Lying on the floor as above, lift your upper body (head and shoulders) off the floor by curling up. Don’t try to lift to high, just enough to get your shoulders slightly off the floor. Repeat 10 times. You can do more sets of 10 as you get better!

 

 

These simple exercises can make a real difference if you are suffering with spondylolisthesis in the lumbar spine. Give them a go and see if they help you out, but remember to just start slowly and gently! If this does not help you then I would recommend seeking professional advice. Also check out our Total Back Pain Solution for a complete spinal rehabilitation program. It has been developed to specifically restore long term spinal functional integrity. You can beat back pain, and for good!

 

If you have any questions, or would like to share your own experience, please leave us a comment below.

Also, if you have found this article helpful, please share it so we can help even more people! Thankyou.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Do You Have Severe Spinal Stenosis Symptoms? Try This Easy Treatment For Spinal Stenosis!

 

 

Spinal Stenosis

 

Severe spinal stenosis symptoms are not very common. Usually the symptoms are mild to moderate, but they can affect both the lower back and legs. If you are suffering with severe back pain, there are probably other problems on top of any spinal stenosis that might be present. Treatment for spinal stenosis in most cases can only offer a temporary fix, and it really depends on the underlying cause as to how effective any treatment will be. Read on to find out why.

 

What is Spinal Stenosis?

Spinal stenosis occurs when the spinal openings or canals for the nervous system become narrowed. This can either affect the central spinal canal, where the spinal cord descends from the brain, or more commonly it will occur where the spinal nerves exit from the spine. This canal where the nerves exit from the spine is called the neural foramen.

 


Because the spinal cord and nerves are totally encased by bone, if the Central Spinal Canal or the Neural Foramen become too narrow, the bone can start to compress the nerves.

Central canal stenosis symptoms are rare, as it needs to be moderate to severe narrowing before it will compress the spinal cord.

Most commonly it is foraminal stenosis that causes problems as the bone encroaches on the spinal nerve.

 

What Causes Spinal Stenosis?

There several different causes that can lead to narrowing of the spinal canals.

  • Spinal Degeneration. Most cases of spinal stenosis are a result of degenerative changes as we get older. This is basically a result of wear and tear of the spinal structures. Degenerative disc disease decreases the space between the vertebra, therefore narrowing the neural foramen. Formation of bone spurs (particularly around facet joints) can grow into the spinal canal, encroaching on the nerves.
  • Herniated or Bulging Discs. If the disc is pushing into the spinal canal or neural foramen, it can create nerve pressure and irritation. Read more about the discs here.
  • Hereditary. Some people are born with a smaller spinal canal. This may cause symptoms from an early age, but more likely just makes you more susceptible as you age.
  • Spondylolisthesis. This condition occurs when one vertebra slips forward on the one below. This can be the result of degenerative changes or an injury. The forward slippage can create a narrowing of the spinal canals.
  • Tumours. Although not common, abnormal growths can invade the spinal canals, creating spinal stenosis.

 

 Spinal Stenosis Symptoms.

Spinal stenosis can cause lower back pain as well as pain in the legs. Leg pain can be cramping, achy, or even like sciatica. It is often aggravated by extended periods of activity, such as walking or standing.

Lumbar nerve compression from stenosis can affect the nerves that control muscle power and sensation in the legs.

This can lead to weakness, tingling or numbness. In severe cases it can even effect bowel and bladder function. This requires immediate medical attention.

The symptoms of spinal stenosis can often be relieved bending forwards. This helps to open up the spinal canals and reduce nerve pressure. Sufferers will often need to sit for a few minutes if they have been walking or standing for a while.

Lumbar spinal stenosis symptoms are also medically known as 'neural claudication'. This means leg pain when walking, and can also be caused by vascular insufficiency (problems with the blood circulation). It is important to get a correct diagnosis if you have claudication. But as a general idea, stenosis pain can be worse when walking down hill, but not as bad going up hill (as you lean forwards slightly, decompressing the nerves!) Vascular claudication is often worse going up hill as it requires more exertion.

 

Treatment For Spinal Stenosis.

Although there is no cure as such for spinal stenosis, the following treatments are the most common. Depending on the severity and site, one of the following options can be considered.

  • Medications. NSAID's (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) drugs, painkillers and muscle relaxants are often prescribed for spinal stenosis. They may help to temporarily relieve the pain, but do not correct the cause and carry side effects.
  • Injections. Cortico-steroids may be injected to reduce inflammation and reduce nerve pressure around the swollen and irritated nerves. See above.
  • Surgery. Surgery may be considered if more conservative treatments haven't helped or if you're disabled by your symptoms. The goal is to relieve the pressure on your spinal cord or nerve roots by creating more space within the spinal canal. Most commonly a Laminectomy, which is where the posterior, or back, part of the spine is removed to allow more space for the nerves. Often the affected vertebra will also be fused to the vertebra on either side.
  • Activity Modification. For most spinal stenosis cases, the pain is relieved when bending forwards, and aggravated when bending backwards. Being aware of this allows you to modify your behaviours and avoid activities that cause pain, for example working over head such as hanging out washing. Diet and nutrition also play a roll. Maintaining a healthy weight means less stress and strain on the spine, and overweight people tend to have to lean backwards slightly which can increase nerve compression.
  • Exercise and Physical Therapy. Activity can aggravate spinal stenosis, so it is common that sufferers will become less active to reduce their pain. This can lead to muscle weakness and further spinal instability. So it is important to maintain a reasonable level of exercise to maintain strength and fitness. An exercise program such as Total Back Pain Solution, which is designed specifically to improve long term spinal stability, is of the most benefit.

 

This exercise is well known to relieve the symptoms of spinal stenosis because it opens up the spinal canal space. Start by lying on your back, them simply pull both of your knees to your chest and hold them there for 10-30 seconds. This brings your spine into a flexed posture and widens the space for the nerves. Easy and effective!

This simple treatment for spinal stenosis can give quick relief from back pain, even if you have severe spinal stenosis symptoms. But the real key is working towards improving your spinal control and stability.

 

Always seek professional advice when suffering from back pain, as there are many different causes. Mostly these will be a mechanical problem (read more here), but can sometimes be the sign of something more sinister.

Fortunately, many people successfully manage the symptoms of spinal stenosis with the non-surgical therapies. For others, symptoms may become disabling and surgery may be considered.

 

If you have any questions, or would like to share your own experience, please leave us a comment below.

Also, if you have found this article helpful, please share it so we can help even more people! Thankyou.

 

Sacroiliitis Symptoms and The Best Sacroiliitis Treatment

 

 

 Sacroiliitis

 

Sacroiliitis is a spinal condition that can be hard to accurately diagnose. That is because sacroiliitis symptoms are often mistaken for other types of back pain. The reliability of special tests for sacroiliac joint dysfunction have been reported differently over the years, with some studies suggesting very poor reliability, while studies have others conclude reasonable to good reliability and validity. Some recent studies have concluded that combining the findings from three or more sacroiliac joint tests results in reasonable accuracy in clinical diagnosis. However, if you have been diagnosed with sacroiliitis there are some very effective sacroiliitis treatments that you can do right at home!

 

What Is Sacroiliitis?

Sacroiliac joint dysfunction resulting in a clinical pain syndrome is a somewhat controversial topic. Schools of thought vary from those who consider involvement of the the sacroiliac joint as a rare cause of low back pain to those who consider it common. Those who uphold the latter view are often those involved in manual therapies.

Simply, sacroiliitis is inflammation of the sacroiliac joint (in fact any ailment that ends in -itis is inflammation eg. dermatitis is inflammation of the skin.)

The sacroiliac joints, or SI joints, are the two joints in the pelvis that connect the Sacrum to the Ilium which are are joined by strong ligaments on either side.

 

 

The SI joints are major weight bearing joints. They are very strong and do not have a lot of movement. Their main job is shock absorption, although they do allow a small amount of movement when we walk or run for example.

Sacroiliitis occurs when these joints become inflamed. This usually the result of the joint not working correctly (medically known as Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction) as a result of bad movement patterns (read more here). This can either be too much motion, or not enough motion of the SI joint. This can be the result of an injury such as a car accident, or may have accumulated over time through poor posture and excessive sitting.

The abnormal movement of the joint creates strain of the joint, which leads to inflammation.

Sacroiliitis can also be the result of arthritic conditions such as ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, reactive arthritis, or infection among others. Some of these arthritic conditions have an affinity for the sacroiliac joint and should be considered when pain arising from these joints is suspected and particularly when the pattern is bilateral. 

 

Sacroiliitis Symptoms.

Sacroiliitis commonly causes lower back, buttock, groin, and hip pain. Occasionally the pain will travel down the leg and can be mistaken for Sciatica.

The pain is usually one sided, but can be across the entire low back, especially if both SI joints are affected. It is usually a mild to moderate dull ache.

Sacroiliitis pain can be worse after prolonged sitting, or standing in one spot. Running can also aggravate the pain.

Often there is a feeling of stiffness around the lower back and hips as well, particularly after getting out of bed in the morning or after sitting still for a prolonged period.

 

 

Sacroiliitis Treatment Options.

Sacroiliac Belt: A sacroiliac belt is designed to compress and support the sacroiliac joints, thereby relieving stress and instability. 

Available here: http://amzn.to/2rgVrq

 

Rest: A short period of rest may help the inflammation to settle and avoid re-aggravation.

Ice/Heat: Ice (in 10 minute applications) will help to reduce inflammation at the onset. Chronic cases may benefit from heat for 15 minutes at a time to increase blood flow to the area, bringing in healing nutrients.

Medications: Anti-inflammatories or injections will reduce pain and swelling, but don't actually fix the underlying cause.

Exercises: Pulling your knee to your chest on the affected side will help to stretch out tight hip muscles, and create some movement in the SI joint if it is not moving enough.

 

Squats are also good for strengthening the hip muscles that add some support to the SI joints, and may help in stabilising SI joints that are moving too much.

Chiropractic/Physical Therapy: Particularly helpful if the SI joint is not moving enough. Gentle treatments of the affected joint can help to restore better motion, reducing strain on the joint.

Surgery: Only extreme cases of sacroiliitis will require surgical fusion, and it quite rare for this to be an option.

 

Sacroiliitis symptoms can be quite debilitating, but usually it is more of an annoying dull ache and not severe pain. Unfortunately it often becomes an ongoing chronic problem unless the underlying cause is corrected (check out the  Total Back Pain Solution spinal rehabilitation course).

 

Luckily, sacroiliitis treatment is very successful most of the time, and the results are usually achieved quite quickly. It is always recommended to seek professional advice to be sure the treatment option you choose is the best one for you.

 

If you have any questions, or would like to share your own experience, please leave us a comment below.

 

 

What Causes Sciatic Pain? Can Exercises For Sciatica Help?

 

 

Sciatica

 

Sciatica is the name that is given to a common type of pain that radiates along the sciatic nerve, a large nerve that runs down the back of the leg. This article will help to explain what causes sciatic pain, and guide you to which exercises for sciatica may be of benefit.

 

What is Sciatica?

Sciatica is not a medical diagnosis as such, but rather a way to describe a particular set of symptoms that can occur due to an underlying medical condition that causes compression of the sciatic nerve.

sciatic-nerveThese symptoms of sciatica are usually only on one side, and may be one of, or a combination of:

  • Pain that runs from the lower back down the back of the leg or buttock. The pain can vary from a mild ache to a sharp, burning or shooting pain that can become debilitating.
  • Pain that is worse when sitting.
  • You may experience numbness, tingling or weakness in the affected leg.
  • The pain can be made worse by coughing or sneezing.
  • Sharp pain that can make it difficult to walk.

 

 

The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body and is about the diameter of your thumb. It runs from the lower back all the way down your leg and as well as being the biggest, it is also the longest nerve in the body. It is derived from the spinal nerves that exit the spine from L4 through to S3 joining together.

The symptoms of sciatica occur when the any one of these nerve roots that form the sciatica nerve is being compressed or irritated in the lumbar spine. This is what people classically think of as a 'pinched' nerve. It is not usually the result of a single injury, but an accumulation over time.

 

sciatica

 

Most cases of sciatica will do away over time. How ever you should seek urgent medical attention if the pain has a sudden onset, is the result of a bad injury such as a car accident, it is not getting better after a week, or if you ever have trouble controlling your bowel or bladder.

 

What Causes Sciatica?

Compression of the sciatic nerve is most commonly caused by a herniated disc at the L5-S1 spinal level. You can read more about herniated discs here.

Other causes of sciatica are:

  • Degenerative disc disease (breaking down of the spinal discs, read more here.)
  • Spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal nerve canals in the lumbar spine, usually as a result of calcification/bone spurs.)
  • Spondylolysthesis (a condition where one vertebra slips forward on the vertebra below.)
  • Piriformis Syndrome (a muscle in the buttock that can compress the sciatic nerve if it spasms.)
  • Sacro-iliitis (Dysfunction of the sacro-iliac joint can irritate the L5 nerve root)

Rarer causes of sciatica may include pregnancy, spinal tumour, scar tissue, or infection.

 

Exercises For Sciatica

It is important to obtain an accurate diagnosis from your health care professional before starting any exercises, particularly if you are suffering with sciatica. There is not much point in stretching your Piriformis muscle if you have a disc herniation! And this is exactly why you have to be very careful before attempting any exercise regime. There is a real possibility that you could aggravate your condition if you do the wrong thing.

The next article will guide you through the exercises that will help to relieve sciatica, relevant to the cause. Try to start exercising as soon as possible, within a few days of the sciatica flaring up. The longer you leave it the worse the condition becomes. You can find the article that covers the exercises (with diagrams) by clicking this link.

 

Before beginning any exercise program, particularly exercises for sciatica, you should see a health professional to get a correct diagnosis for your pain to rule out any potentially serious problems. We would like to stress again the importance of a correct diagnosis, that way it will give you the best chance to really find out if sciatica exercises relieve pain.

The proper exercises differ based on the underlying condition that is causing the sciatic pain, so patients should not try to self-treat their sciatica before consulting a health professional or spinal specialist such as a chiropractor.

 

If you have any questions, or would like to share your own experience, please leave us a comment below.

Also, if you have found this article helpful, please share it so we can help even more people! Thankyou.

 

What Does Herniated Disc Lower Back Pain Feel Like?

 

 

Herniated Disc Lower Back Pain

 

When it is bad, herniated disc lower back pain is probably the most painful thing that could ever happen to you! The level of pain can become debilitating. And it might not be just limited to your back. The pain can be shooting down your leg in severe cases (known as sciatica).

Fortunately, these sorts of severe cases are not that common. But most herniated discs in the lower back (the L4-L5 spinal level is the most common) are going to be uncomfortable.

Herniated Disc

The spinal discs are often described as being like a jelly doughnut. The discs have a tough outer layer (annulus fibrosus) and a softer, jelly like centre (nucleus pulposus). A herniation occurs when some of the softer centre pushes out through tears or cracks in the annulus fibrosus. These cracks and tears can form as part of the degenerative process, or as a result of injury to the disc. 

 More details on the spinal discs can be found by reading  Spinal Discs. Are They Causing your Back Pain?
 
The North American Spine Society defines lumbar disc herniation with radiculopathy as “. . . localized displacement of disc material beyond the normal margins of the intervertebral disc space resulting in pain, weakness or numbness in a myotomal or dermatomal distribution.”

You can actually have a herniated disc in your spine without even knowing about it. They can even show up on spinal scans of people that have no back pain at all. However, if the ruptured disc is pressing on or irritating the spinal nerves, the disc herniation is likely to cause pain and possibly other symptoms. 

 

 

The most common signs and symptoms of a herniated disc in the lower back are:

Lower back and/or leg pain.

Depending on the size of the herniation, you may have a dull low back ache if there is only a small herniation (that can be hard to differentiate from Degenerative Disc Disease), through to intense shooting pain into the buttocks and leg. Pain down the leg is due to the herniated disc pressing on the nerves from the spine that run down the leg, it is usually referred to as sciatica.

Numbness or tingling.

Nerve compression as a result of a disc herniation can alter the nerve signals, resulting in a change of sensation such as numbness or tingling.

Weakness.

Muscles that are supplied by a nerve that is being compressed tend to become weak due to a loss of proper nerve messages. This may cause you to stumble or trip, and you may have difficulty getting out of a chair. 

If the disc herniation is extremely large, it can compress the nerves enough to cause a loss of sensation in the groin/saddle area, and bowel and bladder problems (for example, incontinence). This is known as Cauda Equina Syndrome. It is a medical emergency and you should seek medical attention immediately.

 

Diagnosis

Correct diagnosis of a herniated disc requires spinal imaging. X-rays show bone, but do not show the soft discs. So either a CT Scan or an MRI is required. This will allow your doctor to see whether you have a herniated disc, and exactly where it is in your spine.

Initially, your doctor should take a careful medical history to find out where you are feeling the pain, what the pain feels like, and how long you have been suffering. Your doctor should also ask how the pain started. Was there an injury or some kind of twisting, bending or reaching movement. They wil want to know if you have any weakness, numbness or tingling.

Neurological examination is also helpful, and you may have your reflexes, strength and ability to feel light touches, pinpricks or vibration.

 

Treatment For a Herniated Disc.

If it is determined that you have a herniated disc, you will have some choices regarding possible treatment strategies. Most herniated discs will resolve themselves over time, but this can take several months.

In severe cases where the herniated disc is compressing nerves, spinal surgery may eventually be an option. A Discectomy (removing the disc, or, usually, a small portion of it) can be performed to take the pressure off the nerves. However, all surgery is risky, and should only be performed in exceptional cases where all other options have been exhausted.

Medications such as pain killers, anti-inflammatories, or steroids (such as Cortisone) can relieve the pain, but do not fix the underlying problem.

Chiropractic manipulation can increase spinal range of motion, relieve nerve pressure, restore blood flow and reduce muscle tension. It is low risk and has a very good success rate.

Ultrasound and massage can help to restore blood flow and reduce muscle tension. Hot and cold therapy, losing weight and quitting smoking are all known to be beneficial as well.

A specific exercise program designed to progressively stabilise the spine and increase flexibility, such as the Total Back Pain Solution, is often the only way to achieve long-term healing for most sufferers of a bulging spinal disc.

 

Most people with a herniated disc can make a full recovery with the right help. Unfortunately, there is not usually a quick fix. Recovery periods vary from several days to several months, depending on the severity and other factors such as age, weight, whether or not you are a smoker, commitment to a treatment program, etc.

It is important to understand what causes the discs to wear and tear in the first place. You can read more about that by reading What Causes Back Pain?

The vast majority of treatments for herniated disc lower back pain are solely focused on pain relief. Whilst critical at the start, a more long term approach to rehabilitating and stabilising the spine is the only solution to prevent a recurrence.

 

If you have any questions, or would like to share your own experience, please leave us a comment below.

Also, if you have found this article helpful, please share it so we can help even more people! Thankyou.

 

Do You Have Bulging Disc Lower Back Pain? What Are Your Bulging Disc Treatment Options.

 

 

 

Bulging Discs And Lower Back Pain

 

Although it sounds like a serious problem, bulging disc lower back pains are usually not severe, and bulging disc treatment options are often very effective at resolving any back pain that you might be suffering with.

Like all disc problems though, it can be very hard to determine exactly what is causing back pain, and often the differing terms (disc bulge, herniation, degeneration) are used interchangeably. In particular, a disc bulge is often confused with a disc herniation, but they are actually different things. We will be covering this in more detail as you read through. 

Another thing that might be somewhat of a surprise is how common bulging discs are, even if you are not experiencing any symptoms. A study that was published in the highly regarded New England Medical Journal in July 1994 by M.C. Jensen titled ‘ Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Lumbar Spine in People without Back Pain.’ examined scans of people who had no symptoms of back pain.

They found that 52% had disc bulges! That is, over half of  people with no back pain had a bulging spinal disc! And this number increases with age.

 

128805-532318-30A bulging disc occurs when the discs inner material, the nucleus pulposus, starts to squeeze out into the outer ring of the disc (annulus fibrosis). This can cause the disc to swell and bulge. It is thought to be a natural part of the ageing process, like Degenerative Disc Disease. This process will happen quicker if their has been an injury to the disc through trauma, or long term spinal stress and strain as a result of things like poor posture and prolonged sitting. Smoking is also known to speed up disc problems.

It is worth mentioning that discs do bulge very slightly when we are standing as they absorb our body weight.

A bulging disc is not necessarily a sign that anything serious is happening to your spine, and they often do not cause any pain.

But, if the bulge is large enough it can press into the spinal canal. This can directly irritate the spinal nerves, resulting in pain. If there is any calcification or spurs (also known as osteophytes) in the area the problem can become much worse.

The easiest way to think of a bulge is as a generalised swelling of the disc. A herniation is different, and occurs when the gel like nucleus pulposus actually squeezes through cracks in the fibres of the annulus fibrosis and pushes out into the spinal canal. The gel like nucleus can even squirt out into the area behind the disc, and this can result in severe pain and neurological problems if it compresses the nerves.

The best way to diagnose a bulging disc is with an MRI. Because the discs are soft tissue, they can not be seen effectively on an X-ray.

 

 

This MRI shows a disc bulge at the L4-L5 spinal level. In the centre of the picture you will see the vertebra of the spinal column like a stack of blocks. The lighter coloured pancakes in between are the discs.

You will notice that one of the discs is darker in colour, and is bulging to the right, into the spinal canal where the spinal nerves are. This is a disc bulge. The darker colour of the disc is generally indicative of dehydration of the disc, a result of Degenerative Disc Disease. Bulging discs and degenerative change usually go hand in hand.

 

Symptoms of Bulging Disc Lower Back Pain

Like Degenerative Disc Disease, the symptoms of a bulging disc vary. As mentioned above, 52% of people with no back pain at all have a disc bulge. Some people may only experience occasional back ache in the mid-line. 

However, if the bulge is large enough to irritate a spinal nerve you can experience severe back pain on one side that may even extend into your buttocks or down your leg. You may even have some numbness or tingling, or muscle weakness. (Although the more severe signs are usually due to a disc herniation.)

 

Bulging Disc Treatment Options.

In severe cases where the disc bulge is compressing nerves, spinal surgery may be an option. A Laminectomy (removing the posterior, bony portion of the vertebra) or a Discectomy (removing the disc) can be performed to take the pressure off the nerves. However, all surgery is risky, and should only be performed in exceptional cases where all other options have been exhausted.

As per the treatment for Degenerative Disc Disease, there are several other, more conservative options.

Medications such as pain killers and anti-inflammatories can relieve the pain, but do not fix the underlying problem.

Chiropractic manipulation can increase spinal range of motion, relieve nerve pressure, restore blood flow and reduce muscle tension. It is low risk and has a very good success rate.

Ultrasound and massage can help to restore blood flow and reduce muscle tension.

A specific exercise program designed to progressively stabilise the spine and increase flexibility, such as the Total Back Pain Solution, is often the only way to achieve long-term healing for most sufferers of a bulging spinal disc.

Hot and cold therapy, losing weight and quitting smoking are all known to be beneficial as well.

Once you understand that spinal problems like a disc bulge, or facet joint pain are all the end result of an underlying spinal instability, it becomes obvious that it is ultimately up to ourselves to protect our spine by looking after it correctly. Only by doing this and making a little effort can we look forward to a life that is not limited by whether by the level of our back pain.

 

                               Next Page: What Does Herniated Disc Lower Back Pain Feel Like?

 

If you have any questions, or would like to share your own experience, please leave us a comment below.

Also, if you have found this article helpful, please share it so we can help even more people! Thankyou.

 

 

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Spinal Discs. Are They Causing your Back Pain?

 

 

 

 Spinal Discs. Are They Causing your Back Pain?

 
Chronic low back pain that originates from the spinal disc is very common. In fact it is estimated that spinal discs account for up to 45% of all back pain. That's a lot when you consider that 80% of the population will suffer from back pain at some point!

But what are discs, and how do you even know if it actually is the problem that is causing your back pain?
It wasn't that long ago that any time you had lower back pain, it would have been diagnosed as a 'slipped disc'. It was the most common throw around phrase to describe back pain, and it is also entirely incorrect.

Firstly, we need to clear up that the spinal discs do not 'slip'. It is anatomically impossible for the disc to slip out of place, not even a millimetre. However they can degenerate, develop tears, bulges and even herniations.

What do Spinal Discs Look Like, And What Is Their Function.

The spinal discs are a unique structure. They are round(ish) in shape, with a flat top and bottom that attach securely to the vertebra above and below. The discs consist of 2 parts, a tough outer ring (anulus fibrosis) and a softer, fibrous inner  component (nucleus pulposus). 

There are 23 spinal discs in our spinal column. Their primary function is to act as a shock absorber between the bones in our spine (the vertebra) to stop them banging or rubbing against each other. They also hold the vertebra together and allow movement between them.

The spinal disc itself has very few nerve endings and no blood supply. Without a blood supply the disc is unable to repair itself, and this means that pain coming from a damaged disc can last for years.
There are several different problems that can occur in the disc to cause back pain, and they can cause differing symptoms as well.

 

 Disc problems can generally be categorised as either:

 

 

Degenerative Disc Disease

Bulging Disc

Herniated Disc

Thinning discs and osteophyte formation are a progression of Degenerative Disc Disease.

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately, spinal disc problems are often misunderstood for a variety of reasons.

Health professionals often have a hard time agreeing on causes of pain related to the spinal disc. Patients have a hard time understanding this complicated medical topic. On top of all that, there are many different terms used to describe disc related pain (slipped disc, pinched nerve, sciatica, bulging disc, etc.) No wonder it gets so confusing, and that's just for the doctors!

It's also important to note that you can actually have a problem with the disc (such as degeneration or a bulge) and not have any pain at all. In fact a relatively high percentage of the population over the age of 40  has a disc disorder that can be seen with MRI studies (disc bulges and annular tears are very common). This does not mean that you will experience pain or any other symptom.

The following pages cover the different disc categories in more detail.

 

Next Page: Degenerative Disc Disease

 

If you have any questions, or would like to share your own experience, please leave us a comment below.

Also, if you have found this article helpful, please share it so we can help even more people! Thankyou.

 

 

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Degenerative Disc Disease

 

 

 

Degenerative Disc Disease

 

As we age, the spinal discs start to dehydrate (the discs are 80{95f364b8aea3ba4afb976a81c1dcc2e8147daac1866ef443968911255633a999} water at birth! Learn more about spinal discs here). As a result of this loss of water over time, the discs start to stiffen. This means they are less able to adjust to the compression forces of every day activities. Although this is considered a part of the natural ageing process, in some individuals, it can cause pain. 

This is known as Degenerative Disc Disease, and it is one of the most common causes of lower back pain. However it is also the most misunderstood.

That is partly because few medical professionals agree on exactly what a diagnosis of Degenerative Disc Disease means, and also when exactly, it is the cause of back pain. The symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease can be quite varied, and this just makes it even more difficult to diagnose.

Maybe not surprisingly, Degenerative Disc Disease is almost universal in the population. The discs can start to show degenerative changes as early as in our 20’s. Most people will have varying degrees of mild to moderate Degenerative Disc Disease by the time they are in their 30’s. Some are even severe by this age. 

Strangely though, not everyone experiences pain. One person may have crippling pain, whilst someone else may have no pain at all. This is one of the difficulties of knowing when, and how to treat Degenerative Disc Disease.

 

Signs of Degenerative Disc Disease:

Although it varies widely, signs of Degenerative Disc Disease generally follow a pattern.

  • Pain in the midline (not off to one side)
  • Intermittent back pain (flares up from time to time) but generally does not get worse over time.
  • Pain is often worse with weight bearing, and improves with lying down.
  • Pain aggravated by physically demanding activity.
  • Pain aggravated by forward bending, particularly for extending time periods (sitting, working at a bench).

 

The pain from Degenerative Disc Disease is due to a combination of inflammation and instability of the spinal segment (which puts further stress on the surrounding tissues).

As the discs degenerate, they lose water and start to shrink, losing height and the ability to flex and absorb pressure. This process is often sped up as a result of poor posture, sedentary lifestyle, lots of sitting, and incorrect movement patterns. It is even worse if there has been an injury, particularly if a twisting injury has damaged the disc at some point.

The shrinking disc is a telling sign of Degenerative Disc Disease. It is easily visualised on X-rays, where you can see a decrease in the space for the disc (as seen at the white arrow below, compared to a healthy disc at the black arrow).

 

Disc x-ray

 

 

 Treatment options for Degenerative Disc Disease.

Medications such as pain killers and anti-inflammatories can relieve the pain, but do not fix the underlying problem.

Spinal surgery, usually fusion, has unreliable outcomes and a long recovery time. Surgical intervention of any kind is fraught with risks and can lead to further complications down the line. In severe cases this may be the only option, but all other possible avenues should be tried first.

Chiropractic manipulation can increase spinal range of motion, relieve nerve pressure, restore blood flow and reduce muscle tension. It is low risk and has a very good success rate.

Ultrasound and massage can help to restore blood flow and reduce muscle tension.

A specific exercise program designed to progressively stabilise the spine and increase flexibility is often the only way to achieve long-term healing for most sufferers of Degenerative Disc Disease.

Hot and cold therapy, losing weight and quitting smoking are all known to be beneficial as well.

 

Next Page: Bulging Discs

 

 

If you have any questions, or would like to share your own experience, please leave us a comment below.

Also, if you have found this article helpful, please share it so we can help even more people! Thankyou.

 

 

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Facet Joint Pain or Facet Syndrome

 

 

 

Facet Syndrome, or Facet Joint Pain

 

Facet Joint Pain (also known as Facet Syndrome) can be debilitating. The patient can be in severe pain and have difficulty moving. It can be extremely unpleasant to say the least!

Although it is one of the main causes of back pain, facet joint pain only accounts for 5 – 10{95f364b8aea3ba4afb976a81c1dcc2e8147daac1866ef443968911255633a999} of all back pain. But this increases to nearly 45{95f364b8aea3ba4afb976a81c1dcc2e8147daac1866ef443968911255633a999} if you are between fifty and sixty years of age.

Facet joint pain usually starts with a sudden onset, and often as a result of a specific activity. Sports and movements that involve rotating or twisting are common causes of facet joint pain (such as tennis and golf).

Often the patient will say something along the lines of ‘I just bent over to pick up my shoe, and my back went and I couldn’t move!’

 

So What Are Facet Joints?

The facet joints sit at the back of the spine (the spinal discs sit at the front aspect of the spine). The facet joints are synovial joints. Just like your knee or the knuckles in your hand, they allow movement between two bones. In the case of facet joints, this is the movement between each vertebra.

In a synovial joint, the ends of the bone are covered in cartilage, like you would see at the end of a chicken bone. This shiny smooth tissue allows the bones to slide against each other almost friction free. The joint is held together by ligaments and a joint capsule. The inside of the joint cavity contains synovial fluid, like all synovial joints. This fluid lubricates the joint for smooth movement.

Most of our spinal movements (bending, reaching, twisting) occur thanks to our facet joints. They come in very handy!

 

What Is Facet Joint Pain?

The facet joints can be become injured, and therefore inflamed, as a result of injury or arthritis. Injury usually results from the joint being over stretched as a result of a twisting or reaching movement.

Arthritis, which can be seen on X-ray, CT scan or MRI, is result of degeneration of the joint. It is my belief that degenerative change is the result of chronic inflammation due to the facet joint not moving correctly (incorrect movement patterns). This is usually the result of a previous injury to the joint.

I want to point out again that is very hard to isolate exactly what is causing your back pain, as different causes often have the same symptoms and usually there is more than one culprit at play simultaneously.

However, typical signs of facet joint pain are:

  • The pain is on one side only. Often the patient can point exactly to the involved facet joint.
  • The pain had a sudden onset with a specific movement or activity. If you are over fifty, the pain may have come on more gradually.
  • The pain is worse if you lean backwards (or extend your spine).
  • Stiffness or difficulty getting out of a chair.
  • Dull pain into the buttocks or leg (but never past the knee).
  • Increased pain when you twist your back, like turning to look over your shoulder.

A common diagnostic tool for facet joint pain is to inject the joint with a local anaesthetic and an anti-inflammatory. This often brings immediate welcome relief.

However this test is notoriously inaccurate and does not have much scientific proof! So what do you do?

When I diagnose facet joint pain it is using a thorough history and physical examination. But you can never be 100{95f364b8aea3ba4afb976a81c1dcc2e8147daac1866ef443968911255633a999} sure, even with X-rays and the like.

If it looks like facet joint pain, then it probably is. But don’t rule out other possible contributing factors!

 

 

Treatment of Facet Joint Pain.

The most common medical approach, often after a diagnoses from injecting anaesthetic, is to inject steroids into the facet joint to reduce inflammation. This has mixed degrees of success in relieving the pain, and if successful it is usually short-lived (because it doesn’t fix the CAUSE of the facet injury). Steroid injections are also fraught with complications. Leg numbness and an increased risk of osteoporosis are known side-effects.

Another medical approach is Facet Rhizotomy or radiofrequency denervation or ablating. Basically, burning the delicate nerves to the facet joint! This has varying results at best, plus you want to be 100{95f364b8aea3ba4afb976a81c1dcc2e8147daac1866ef443968911255633a999} sure of the diagnoses before you start killing nerves! They are there for a reason.

Physical Therapy. Although there is not a lot of research to support it, chiropractic adjustment (or manipulation) to restore normal movement to the facet joint is widely known to be a very effective method of treating facet joint pain. There is some research that suggests patients recover quicker, and enjoy longer lasting results under chiropractic care. For some this might be controversial, but I personally would rather try more natural avenues before I burn off some important bits, or put any risky chemicals in my body!

At the end of the day, facet joint pain is probably a lot more common than the 5-10{95f364b8aea3ba4afb976a81c1dcc2e8147daac1866ef443968911255633a999} mentioned above. If you have injured a facet joint, the steps to recovery are essentially the same as for any back problem. Reduce inflammation, then strengthen and stabilise the area through following a suitable exercise plan. Simple as that.

 

If you have any questions, or would like to share your own experience, please leave us a comment below.

Also, if you have found this article helpful, please share it so we can help even more people! Thankyou.

 

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