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The Truth About Discogenic Lower Back Pain

The Truth About Discogenic Lower Back Pain

What is it?

As we all know, our spines are made up of vertebrae which are connected with each other by discs. These discs are responsible for absorbing the shock our spine experiences and they also allow and limit our movements. These discs are made up of an outer layer called the annulus fibrosis while an inner layer consisting of a gelatinous material known as the nucleus pulposis. This can be best describe as your jam filled doughnuts.
When someone proclaims that “I have slipped my disc” they are actually describing a the pain they felt on their lower back which is really called the discogenic lower back pain. Even though the disc itself has not slipped, this has become the generic term for such injury. A more precise and to the point description of discogenic lower back pain is the disc bulge or a disc herniation, but this will also depend on how severe the injury may be.

Disc bulge happen when an internal disruption of the disc and the inner gelatinous nucleus material or the nucleus pulposis moves to the outer edges otherwise known as the annulus fibrosis. This creates a bulging effect. The outermost part of the disc is highly innervated (nerve supply), and this bulging can cause serious discomfort.

Mechanism of Injury

An injury to the spine, otherwise known as disc bulge or herniation may be caused by lifting heavy objects, pain can also be triggered by minor activities such as bending to pick things up from the floor. A person can be injured without his knowledge because the inner part of the disc has no nerve endings that will trigger pain, it is only when the outer part begins to show signs of tearing that pain is felt. And this is best describes as “the straw that breaks the camel’s back”. Aside from repetitive heavy lifting of objects, sitting for a prolong period of time is also a common cause of injury to your lower back because it places great stress to the discs.
Individuals who suffer lower back injuries often have some pre-existing condition regarding their proximal stability or weakness to their postural muscles.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Severe pain is felt on one side of the lower back, down to one leg and it is also common that the same pain is felt even down to the toes
  • Once pain is felt, bending forwards and other movements are restricted especially when getting up from sitting. 
  • When experiencing neurological signs such as pains of pins and needles, numbness, weakness or bladder and bowel dysfunctions a careful consideration must be given because these may be signs of more serious disc injury.

Treatment Management

  • The most common treatment method to follow is the McKenzie Technique  – It involves proper exercise that reduces the pressure on the injured disc and it allows healing.
  • While dealing with the posterior disc bulge or herniation of the disc, extension based exercise is essential . 
  • Taping the lower back can help maintain comfortable posture and can help reduce muscular spasm to relieve pain.
  • Spinal mobilization and soft tissue massage to restore movement. 
  • Clinical Pilates can help regain stability of the proximal muscle.


Self Management

  • Find out more about body position and certain activities to avoid pain and allow healing to your back.
  • Enrol in a Pilates based strengthening program.
  • Improve your posture by using lumbar rolls.


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