There are numerous causes for low back pain. Two of the most prevalent that I see in my clinic as a physical therapist are herniated discs and degenerative discs. These are problems related to specific conditions affecting the supportive structure between the vertebrae in your back. Today, I will talk a little bit more about each condition and one of the best steps you can take to help alleviate pain caused by these problems.
Throughout our lives our vertebrae are constantly under varying degrees of stress. When this stress is uniformly distributed throughout the disc it can withstand very high amounts of pressure. Problems tend to occur when the pressure distribution across the disc is not distributed evenly and high amounts of force are applied (bending, lifting, and twisting are three motions that cause the greatest stress on the back). When these types of forces are applied to the disc, it can “herniate,” “rupture” and/or “bulge.” This occurs when the soft liquid core of the disc protrudes into the tough cartilage that makes up the walls. This can be a very painful condition often associated with symptoms of numbness, tingling and even pain down into the legs.
The discs in our backs are aqueous: water-based in nature. As we age, our discs lose their ability to retain this fluid. This results in much tighter spaces for our spinal canal and nerves and usually results in “stenosis”– crowding or narrowing of these structures. This can also be the cause of a significant amount of pain in your back with or without numbness, tingling and/or pain down into your legs.
So what is an effective method to alleviate this pain? How can you most effectively get pressure off of your disks to alleviate tension on the nerves and decrease pain?
Both of these conditions are aggravated by pressure on the injured structures. Usually standing and/or sitting are the worst while lying down either on the back or on the stomach usually feels the best. In these postures there is zero pressure on the disc that would cause pain– essentially “zero gravity” pressing down on the disc or on the nerve. An industry leader in the field of spine rehabilitation, Relax The Back has taken this idea to another level with their line of “zero gravity” seating. The idea is simple: a uniquely comfortable chair that is capable of sufficient recline, allowing you to put your back in a position where there’s the smallest amount of pressure possible. These chairs actually recline all the way back into a position where your feet are level with your head with your knees bent. This position minimizes pressure on your disc and can significantly decrease pain in your back.
Another great feature to this line of seating is that all positions, from upright to full recline, are fully supported. There is actually a locking feature that will isolate the chair into whatever position you find to be most comfortable.
You do not have to live with disc pain. There are a surprising number of things that can be done to treat it. I would encourage you to contact your doctor or physical therapist; these professionals can come up with a plan to treat your pain and ultimately help you feel better.
Make it happen,