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  • Writer's pictureDr Claire Chittleborough

Lumbar disc prolapse

A lumbar disc prolapse (often referred to as a slipped disc… although the disk does not actually slip anywhere) is the most common cause of lower back pain there is. And when you consider that up to 80% of people will experience lower back pain at some point in their life, that’s a lot of potential lumbar disc issues out there.

Let’s take a look at what might cause a disc prolapse and what you can do about it.

What is a lumbar disc prolapse?

Your spine is made up of 24 vertebrae that are stacked on top of one another. In between the vertebrae are soft, round cushions of tissue, which act as shock absorbers when you walk, run or generally move. These cushions consist of a tough but flexible outer ring with a soft, jelly-like centre. Wear and tear or a sudden injury can cause the jelly-like centre to press against the outer ring, causing it to ‘bulge’. In the case of a prolapsed disc, the soft centre pushes all the way through it. The five vertebrae in your lower back are known as your lumbar spine, and this is the area where a prolapsed disc is most likely to occur.

A prolapsed disc can put pressure on the spinal cord and surrounding nerve roots, leading to inflammation and swelling in the area. This can put pressure on a nerve and lead to a person feeling pain, numbness, pins and needles, or weakness in one or both legs.

What causes a lumbar disc prolapse?

This condition is often the result of age-related wear and tear. In young people, the discs have a high water content, but as we age the amount of water in the discs decreases and they become less flexible. The age you are most likely to experience a disc prolapse is between 35-50 years of age. After this, the discs become much less flexible and you are less likely to prolapse a disc.

Lifting heavy objects, twisting and/or turning while lifting can also cause a disc to prolapse. In rare cases, they may also occur as a result of a fall or blow to the back.

What is the treatment for a lumbar disc prolapse?

The very first thing you should do if you suspect you have a disc injury is to call your chiropractor. We are expertly trained to deal with such injuries and know when it is necessary to be referred on for further investigations. Most of the time, a disc prolapse can be handled right here in the clinic.

At first, you aren’t going to feel like doing much at all (this may be something to do with the fact you are in pain and feeling quite immobile), but it is important not to just rest in bed constantly. You should start to move around as soon as you can. When you do get up and about, ease into it - making your movements slow and controlled, particularly when it comes to bending forward. And leave any lifting to someone else for a little while. We will be able to advise when you can and cannot do things and will get you gradually moving around as the days, weeks and months pass. It’s worth knowing that a severe disc prolapse can take anywhere between 3-6 months to heal and rehabilitate.

A chiropractor will use manual therapy and manipulation to relieve your pain and improve the health of your spine. We can also show you exercises that will strengthen the muscles that support the spine. Not only can these relieve your pain and help you recover, but they can reduce the chances of a prolapsed disc happening again.

If you are experiencing back pain or you are worried about your movement, give us a call on 0413 774 399 or email and we’ll help you get to the bottom of the issue.

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