A herniated disc occurs when the soft inner material of a spinal disc leaks out and places pressure on surrounding nerves. This can cause back pain, numbness, or weakness in the legs or arms. Here’s what you need to know about herniated discs and how physical therapy can help:
- Causes: Herniated discs can occur due to a variety of reasons, including age-related degeneration, trauma, repetitive strain, and excessive weight.
- Physical Therapy Assessment: A physical therapist will perform a comprehensive evaluation to determine the cause of the back pain and create a personalized treatment plan.
- Pain Management: Physical therapists use various techniques such as manual therapy, modalities, and exercises to reduce pain and inflammation.
- Stretching and Strengthening Exercises: Physical therapists design stretching and strengthening exercises to improve flexibility, range of motion, and strength in the back and surrounding muscles.
- Core Strengthening: Physical therapists can design a core strengthening program to improve stability and support for the back.
- Manual Therapy: Physical therapists can perform manual therapy techniques such as soft tissue mobilization, traction and joint mobilization to alleviate pain and improve range of motion.
Physical therapy exercises for herniated discs in the back include:
- McKenzie Extension: Lie on your stomach with your hands under your forehead. Gradually lift your upper body off the floor, keeping your arms straight. Hold for 5 seconds and lower back down. Repeat 10 times.
- Pelvic Tilts: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Tighten your abdominal muscles and tilt your pelvis upward, then relax and lower your pelvis. Repeat 10 times.
- Hamstring Stretch: Lie on your back with one leg straight and the other leg bent. Keep your back flat on the floor and use a towel or strap to gently pull the straight leg towards your chest. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat with the other leg.
- Knee to Chest Stretch: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Hold one knee to your chest and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat with the other knee.
Physical therapy can be a highly effective way to manage herniated discs and improve function. A physical therapist will create a personalized treatment plan and provide guidance and support throughout the rehabilitation process to help patients achieve their goals and return to their desired activities.