A herniated disc is the protrusion of an intervertebral disc or its nucleus outside its normal limits. In France, this pathology affects men more than women, mainly in the 20-30 age group. A disc is made up of a gelatinous nucleus, the nucleus pulposus, and an envelope of peripheral fibers that connect the two vertebrae. After violent and repeated efforts of the back, it can happen that this envelope cracks, letting the nucleus out. One of the immediate consequences is a stress on one or more nerve roots or on the spinal cord, with more or less severe pain (sciatic neuralgia, cervicobrachial), or even paralysis of the organs corresponding to its roots (limbs).
What is a herniated disc?
Herniated discs cause pain in the lower back, legs, shoulders or arms. Due to the compression of a nerve by an intervertebral disc , they usually heal spontaneously within a few weeks. In 90% of cases, herniated discs occur in the lumbar vertebrae and symptoms affect the lower back or a leg. It’s lumbago and sciatica pain. In 8% of cases, the herniated disc occurs in the cervical vertebrae and causes pain in a shoulder and arm.
Are there complications from herniated discs?
Although painful, herniated discs rarely cause complications. The compressed nerve fibers , when they are sensitive (those which transmit the touch and the pain), recover well from the compression once the disc returns in place.
However, in some cases, the hernia compresses the nerve fibers that control the muscles (the “motor” fibers). These recover poorly from the compression, which can lead to lasting paralysis . In this case, the compression should be lifted as quickly as possible, through urgent surgery.
Sudden reduction or disappearance of pain due to a herniated disc may be a sign of worsening nerve compression and damage to motor fibers. In addition, weakness in an arm or leg, or the inability to walk on tiptoes or heels may be a sign of distress in the motor fibers that innervate the leg. In the arm, compression of the motor fibers can result in loss of finger dexterity.
Other type of complication :
Another complication of herniated discs is the passage to chronicity , that is to say the fact of suffering regularly from the same herniated disc. This transition to chronicity is particularly frequent in people who do not practice regular physical activity, those who are overweight, and those who suffer from depression or chronic stress, for example in connection with work. Conflicts, for example hierarchical or within the couple, are also suspected of contributing to the recurrence of herniated discs and their transition to a chronic state.
What is a herniated disc due to?
The causes of a herniated disc are multiple and, most often, several of these causes must be combined for it to appear :
- Drying of the intervertebral disc, most often due to age, and sometimes aggravated by poor hydration of the body (for example during hot weather).
- The wear of the intervertebral disc due to repeated efforts, bad posture, prolonged sitting day after day, etc. An area of the disc is then subjected to intense and repeated pressure, which weakens it.
- A family environment that makes the intervertebral discs more vulnerable, due to their morphology or poor posture of the spine.
- Trauma that damages the disc or subjects it suddenly to very intense pressure.
Contrary to a widely held misconception, stress and anxiety cannot be the cause of a herniated disc. However, they can help keep the problem going and turn it into a chronic disease.
Some naturopathic tips to protect your back from a hiatus hernia
Lifestyle measures must be put in place and followed scrupulously to avoid recurrence and the appearance of chronic pain.
Adopt a healthy lifestyle:
- Exercise regularly and warm up before you start.
- Exercise the muscles of the trunk. Working the abdominals helps, but other types of exercise are needed to engage the deeper muscles that support the spine. It is best to seek help from a trained professional (trainer, physiotherapist, kinesiologist).
- Drink enough during hot weather.
- Maintain a healthy weight or lose weight if you are overweight. Take our BMI test to find out your body mass index.
- Reserve moments of relaxation.
- Strengthen your back and abdominals, for example by regularly swimming, brisk walking, cycling, or abdominal exercises.
- Avoid smoking
- Watch your weight
Adopt good posture in general:
- Remain aware of your posture at all times. The back is straight, the gaze straight, the shoulders back.
- To lift a heavy object, do not tilt the torso forward and avoid twisting movements. Crouch down by bending your knees while keeping your back straight. Stand up while holding the object close to the body.
- To shovel snow, keep your back as straight as possible. To do this, place your hand close to the shovel plate and bend your knees to pick up the snow. Use the knee as a lever when the load is heavy. Avoid twisting movements of the back when throwing the shovelful of snow.
- Adopt positions and gestures that avoid strong pressure on part of the discs. For example, kneeling to pick up an object instead of bending your spine, carrying an object by holding it against your body rather than at arm’s length, pushing heavy objects rather than pulling them.
- Stay alert for the first signs of pain in the back. Herniated discs are often preceded by mild back pain which should be considered as warning signs.
Posture at work:
- If you have to stand for a long time, use a low stool on which you will put your feet in turn, alternating every 5 to 10 minutes.
- If you have to sit for long hours at the desk or driving a vehicle, take time off to stretch and stretch.
- Use straight back chairs that support the lower back.
- Adjust the height of the chair or place your feet on a small stool so that the knees are a little higher than the hips.
- Use a swivel chair to minimize twisting movements.
The little tips:
- Favor backpacks over handbags, and use both shoulders to carry the backpack.
- Pushing heavy objects rather than pulling them.
- Avoid wearing shoes with high heels (more than 5 cm). Instead, wear well-fitting shoes that provide good support.
On the side of medicinal plants
Herniated discs are due to the compression of a nerve by an intervertebral disc , they usually heal spontaneously within a few weeks. Their treatment is based on the relief of pain and inflammation. Surgery is rarely necessary.
Analgesic, pre-anesthetic and anti-inflammatory, this essential oil is generally indicated in herniated discs, muscle strain and rheumatic fever.
White willow is an anti-inflammatory, by acting on IL-1 beta and NF kappa B (reduction of IL-6 and TNF-α), it reduces the infiltration of polynuclear cells, smoothes the mucosa synovial membrane, protects against osteophyte formation, decreases soft tissue swelling and bone resorption. It thus reduces the levels of inflammatory mediators.
In fact, it is an excellent analgesic indicated in pain due to a herniated disc.
This plant is a powerful analgesic with anti-inflammatory activity by inhibiting cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), effective in the pain of herniated discs.
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