A spinal disc is a cushion between the bones of your spine. Discs ensure that your bones don’t rub against each other and are free to move. When a disc herniates, it bulges and enters the spinal canal.
Herniated disc symptoms vary depending on the severity of the bulge. Some people may not experience any symptoms. Others may experience a bit of pain from time to time or radiating pain that extends to the arms or legs.
If you have a herniated disc that’s pushing against a nerve, aside from pain, you may also experience tingling and numbness.
Each year, up to 2% of adults experience a herniated disc. Left untreated, this can lead to missed work days and a lot of pain and discomfort.
We asked Dr. Bonaventure Ngu, our expert at Premier Spine Institute in The Woodlands, Humble, and Baytown, Texas, to explain how you can avoid a herniated disc.
Use proper technique when lifting weights
With the right technique, you can evenly distribute a load without overworking your spine. Here’s how:
- Push your chest forward to shift the weight onto your hips and legs
- Bend at the hips and not your back to reduce the weight load on your spine
- Keep your shoulders and hips in line to avoid twists that can worsen slipped discs
The weight you’re lifting at the gym is not the only weight that can cause issues. Being overweight and obese increases the pressure put on your spine at all times.
Therefore, losing weight may improve slipped disc symptoms.
Quit smoking cigarettes
Smoking exposes your discs to carbon monoxide. This is a byproduct of nicotine that can prevent discs from absorbing the proper amount of nutrients from the blood. Consequently, discs become weaker, less flexible, and more likely to rupture and leak.
Maintain a good posture
When you have a poor posture, your head tends to tilt forward, which can put extra pressure on your spine, damaging your discs. Tilting your head by only 15 degrees increases the pressure on your upper spine by approximately 27 pounds.
Keep your devices at eye level when writing or watching a video to prevent this.
Don’t engage in too much or too little activity
Both a sedentary lifestyle and a very active lifestyle can cause a herniated disc. Sitting down for prolonged periods, without breaks, increases the pressure on your lower back. However, repetitive movements — such as twisting, bending, or lifting — can weaken your spine's structure and cause your discs to slip.
The key to maintaining a healthy spine is alternating between periods of rest and periods of activity.
Wearing high heels
High heels force your body forward, throwing your spine out of alignment with your hips. This causes uneven wear and tear on your spine, and your lower back has to work harder to keep you upright, which increases your risk of developing a herniated disc.
When to seek medical help
The symptoms caused by herniated discs usually go away on their own with rest, but you may need medical attention if you notice numbness, tingling, or loss of sensation in your arms or legs. Pain that doesn’t go away by itself and interferes with your daily life should also prompt a medical visit.
If your symptoms don’t improve, contact us to schedule an appointment. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, Dr. Ngu may recommend physical therapy, oral medications, massage, or epidural injections for long-term relief from pain and inflammation.