5 Tips to Prevent a Herniated Disc

Roughly 5-20 out of every thousand people suffer from at least one herniated disc. Herniated discs can cause back pain, leg pain, and weakness in your legs and feet. 

At Steel City Spine and Orthopedic Center, Jocelyn R. Idema, DO, and her team understand what a dramatic impact ruptured discs can have on your life. Here she shares her top five tips on how to prevent herniated discs, so you can keep your spine healthy and symptom-free.

How a disc slips

Your spine is constructed of small bones called vertebrae. Between each of these vertebrae is a small, flat disc that acts like a cushion, absorbing shocks and allowing easy movements of your spine. Each disc is made up of an inner jelly-like substance called the nucleus and a solid, flexible outer layer called the annulus.

A herniated disc occurs when a part of the nucleus pushes through a tear in the annulus. Herniated discs can also be called slipped, bulged, or ruptured discs.

When a disc herniates, the bulging nucleus presses against your spinal nerves, causing pain and discomfort. In most cases, herniated discs are a result of age-related wear-and-tear on the spine and degeneration of the disc. 

How to reduce the risk of a slipped disc

By adopting the following habits, you can minimize your risk for a slipped disc.

Build up your core strength

When you strengthen your core muscles, including your abdominals, you stabilize your spine and reduce the likelihood of a disc rupturing. 

In addition to adding core-strengthening and weightlifting to your routine, choose aerobic exercises that don’t stress your lower back, such as swimming, walking, and cycling.

Exercise also helps you lose weight, which decreases the odds of ruptured discs. The pressure of too many extra pounds on your discs can compress and dry them out. 

Lift with your legs

When lifting heavy objects, don’t use your back muscles. Doing so can put unnecessary stress on your spine and cause a herniated disc. 

Instead of bending down to lift something by rounding your back or folding at the waist, squat down and lift with your leg muscles. If an object is too heavy, too big, or too awkward, find someone to help you lift it.

Stand up straight

Poor posture bends and compresses your spine, making it more likely that you’ll develop a herniated disc and suffer from lower back pain. You’re especially at risk for a herniated disc and neck or back pain if you slouch over a computer for long periods of time. 

Improve your posture by standing tall. Strive to keep your shoulders aligned above your hips with your chin parallel to the floor. Apply ergonomic changes to your workspace, such as using a standing desk or sitting on a ball instead of a chair, to improve your posture.

Don’t sleep on your stomach

Sleep posture is as important to your spine health as daytime posture. When you sleep on your stomach, you add stress to your spine. Instead, sleep on your back or on your side. If your mattress is too soft and doesn’t properly support your spine, upgrade to a firm mattress. 

Stop smoking

Smoking not only raises your risk for heart disease and stroke, it dries out your skin and other tissues, including your vertebral discs. Cigarettes and other tobacco products accelerate disc degeneration, making them more likely to rupture. 

If you’ve tried to quit smoking in the past but haven’t been able to kick the habit for good, talk to Dr. Idema about other options that can improve your chances of quitting.

If you have back pain — whether from herniated discs or other causes — call our office in McKees Rocks or Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, today. You can also use our handy online system to request an appointment.

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