Herniated disc: what is it?
A herniated disc is the protrusion of a portion of an intervertebral disc. The disc is located between the vertebral body of two adjacent vertebrae. It is made up of a fibrous ring with a soft, central portion called a nucleus. The hernia occurs when so much pressure is placed on the disc’s nucleus that it ruptures and crosses the surrounding fibrous ring. It can then compress one or several sciatic nerve roots or the spinal cord itself.
The most common cause of a herniated disc is bending forward and can be associated with lifting a heavy object. The risks are even higher if the bending is combined with a twisting motion and weak core muscles. Certain jobs or prolonged incorrect postures can promote the appearance of disc instability in that they place pressure on the spinal column and accelerate the ageing process. Excess weight, particularly when located in the abdomen, can also be a contributing factor.
Most people with a herniated disc are under the age of 50. In fact, the likelihood of disc instability is highest between the ages of 25 and 55. Some signs become medical emergencies, such as:
- Loss of bladder or bowel control (urinary or fecal incontinence)
- Numbness in the genital region
- Significant muscle weakness (difficulty standing or going upstairs)
The osteopath first tries to mechanically realign the spinal column while respecting the level of inflammation. Given that the hernia is a problem regarding the instability of the nucleus within the disc’s fibrous ring, it is important that the treatment, which is inevitably accompanied by a process of fibrosis, be carried out with the best possible alignment. This reduces the risk of relapse. Treatment goals include:
- Release of localized vertebral restrictions and the spine in general
- Looking for primary causes (an injury related to an adhesion involving an internal organ, influences from the lower extremities, cranial influence, etc.)
- Equilibration with adjacent structures (pelvic floor, sacrum and sacroiliac joints, etc.)
- Improved posture and protection tips