Lower back pain affects up to 80% of people at some stage in their lifetime and is the most commonly treated disability. There are numerous structures in the lower back which have the potential if damaged to cause pain. One common source of lower back pain are the intervertebral discs. These discs are rounded structures which lie between our spinal vertebrae to provide mobility, cushion and shock absorption to the spine. In total there are 23 discs in the human spine which are made up of an outer fibrous ring of connective tissue, the annulus fibrosis, and a soft inner jelly like substance the nucleus pulposis. The discs absorb a large amount of force with daily activities of living, for example in unsupported sitting pressures exerted on the discs in the lower back are one third greater than in standing, if we compound this with the amount of hours we sit in front of the computer in the office it’s not hard to see why disc related lower back pain is so common.
Disc related lower back pain can result from a single incident whereby the disc is overloaded to the point of failure or may be more degenerative in nature and occur do to wear and tear overtime. The severity of symptoms will depend on the extent to which the disc has been damaged or comprised. Usually with an inflamed or bulging disc there will be debilitating pain across the area of the lower back which may radiate down into either buttock or thigh. In the most severe cases where there is a complete prolapsed or a leaking disc that is compressing the nerve root itself there may be radiating pain down the leg as far as the foot, pins and needles, loss of sensation and/or strength.
In order to provide pain relief and restore pain free function our physiotherapists may use a combination of some of the following treatments: spinal mobilisation, lumbar traction, massage, heat, dry needling, lumbar brace or support, strengthening and range of motion exercises and Clinical Pilates classes. In severe cases of disc injury orthopaedic intervention may be warranted. Portobello physiotherapy has links with Irelands leading back specialists and our physiotherapists will be able to refer you on for further review with an orthopaedic specialist if required.