What is Herniated or Bulging Disc?
A disc is a jelly like, fluid filled sac that acts as a cushion between the bones of your neck (vertebrae). Your discs change as you age, drying out and becoming more brittle. In addition, as the discs dry out with age, the change in height between the vertebrae decreases, causing changes in posture and function. In younger adults, the center of the disc (nucleus) is held in place by many rings of the disc (picture a cross section of a tree trunk). With minor or major injuries, poor posture and strain, these rings can rupture allowing a pressing outward of the disc nucleus. Finally, as the nucleus reaches the outer edges, the disc can begin to bulge, which in turn can rub and irritate nerve roots exiting your spine.
In more severe cases, the disc can become herniated, which further presses into the spaces where nerves are exiting. Symptoms can range from localized pain, to numbness / tingling to a specific part of the shoulder, arm or hands. In more severe cases complete lack of sensation, muscle weakness and paralysis of an area of the upper extremity can occur.
Changes in posture, strength and range of motion can all affect the positioning of the disc and how much bulging or herniation is occurring.
How physical therapy helps
The good news is that the majority of bulging and herniated discs can be treated conservatively with physical therapy. By working with your medical history, symptoms and testing, our physical therapists can determine what areas have been affected.
A thorough plan is then created to relieve pressure on the disc by improving joint function, muscle strength and posture. Modalities, such as ultrasound or electrical stimulation may be used to reduce pain, muscle spasm or inflammation. Our therapists work with you to recover lost strength and range of motion. In addition, we then train you on the correct exercises to maintain good posture and reduce the risk of future episodes. Call us today to discover how we can help relieve your pain quickly and restore your function!