One of the most completely misleading statements in the back pain world is a “slipped disc”.
The expression implies that a disc – the jelly like ‘substance’ in-between your vertebrae – slips out of position.
With a slipped disc it’s easy to picture a mechanical fault like a washer moving in between two surfaces (acting like a buffer), and that it simply needs to be pushed back in place and HEY PRESTO, you’re FIXED!
If this was only the case. It would have saved me from 10 years of tortuous back pain in my 20s.
The Human Body is Treated Like a Machine
I also find that in the medical and rehabilitation world as a whole it’s so easy for the human body to be compared to a mechanical device.
This is evident when you look at our medical industry and see that everything is compartmentalised:
- we have a specialist who looks purely at knees
- another who only looks at shoulders, and
- another who looks at digestive issues
Only on rare occasions do they actually read each other’s notes: if they are seeing a patient with multiply issues.
This approach to treat everyone like a machine has also placed our nation into deep water in the weight loss world over the last 40 years.
Weight loss was treated on the principle of thermo-dynamics and this is how the whole calorie restriction nonsense started.
If you eat fewer calories than your burn each day, then HEY PRESTO you’ll be super slim.
But again, since this has been adopted globally we have become way fatter.
The problem here lies in the forgotten system in our body called the Endocrine system.
This controls all hormonal responses within our bodies and by cutting calories the hormonal system becomes utterly confused, which leads to weight gain, obesity and the rise of type 2 diabetes.
The ‘Slipped Disc’
BUT getting back to the ‘slipped disc’.
It doesn’t slip. The correct term is a disc herniation.
From the MRI image (below) you can see a typical disc herniation.
The most common type of disc herniation is a posterior lateral disc herniation. In other words, the disc moves backwards and usually more to one side of the spine than the other, and it’s commonly at the base of the spine (the L5-S1 level).
For example, a disc moves back and to the left and it pushes onto nerves. This results in the patient experiencing pain in the lower back, glute or down the left leg.
Yet, around 80% of disc herniations don’t present with pain for years.
Keep in mind: the further the pain spreads away from the lower back, the worse the disc herniation.
This type of condition is VERY COMMON and it’s getting more so since the digital age really started in the early to mid-2000s. People tend to sit more now than ever before in human history.
Sitting increases pressure on vertebral discs much more than being stood upright. Add to this a poor seated posture, poor eyesight, poor diet, IBS type symptoms and poor general fitness, and we have an epidemic in the making.
And it’s not just sitting at a disk all day or driving for a living that can exaggerate this condition. It’s also very common for the following professions:
- Hair Stylists
- Professional & Amateur Golfers
Or any job that requires heavy lifting or increased bending or twisting.
It’s Not Just A Disc Issue
Over the last 15 years we’ve been specialising in back pain rehabilitation and we’ve probably worked with more disc injured patients than most clinics, and I’m confident to say we have probably rehabilitated more too.
Our success in the rehabilitation of back pain is due to the fact that each and every patient we work with has a FULL evaluation of not only the spine but every area of their body.
And, we also fully evaluate their diet, current medication, digestive health, stress load, ergonomics and a whole lot more.
This is then followed by a detailed complete health plan leading to a full recovery of this debilitating condition.
But is this all necessary?
It’s absolutely essential!
If the disc did just simply ‘slip’ then we could see a practitioner who would push it back into place, but that is a fallacy. It’s also what I believed for the first few years of experiencing three disc herniations in my younger years.
It’s NOT just about the back.
It never is.
There is ALWAYS (unless due to a direct injury to the spine) another cause to back pain than just the bit that hurts.
It’s our job to find the root and ensure a plan is in place as well as have a team of experienced and trained professionals on-hand to treat and coach patients on a weekly basis.
The results speak for themselves though.
Or should I say our success stories do.