Disc Herniation Part 1: Best Self-Treatments To Help Your Lumbar Disc Herniation  

By Dr Ken Nakamura+

Do you have a disc herniation?

Do you need a way to relieve the sciatica from a disc herniation, that is sending sharp pains into your buttock, thigh and leg? 

Are you feeling you can’t do your daily routine with your disc herniation?

The good news is you aren’t stuck with a disc herniation forever. Most people can be helped without surgery. In this post, I’ll show you the best ways to change your everyday life to help your disc herniation. In the next article I will go over the best exercises to put the disc herniation back into place and the exercises you need to stabilize your lower back.

Mary got up one morning, and it was like any other morning. She started doing her toe touches she had done everyday for over 10 years, then wham!

It felt like a hot poker of electricity radiating from her lower back down to her buttock, thigh, and leg to her toes. Mary felt her leg was numb, and tingly, just like pins and needles. Mary just had a disc herniation. Sometimes its called a slipped disc, or a ruptured disc.

For Mary it happened in the lower back so it’s called a lumbar disc herniation. When the pain radiates down the thigh and leg people often refer to this as sciatica, or radiculopathy by doctors. Doctors love to give big names for simple things

Lumbar Disc Herniation-Downtown Toronto Chiropractor

Lumbar Disc Herniation          Picture from neurosciences.beaumont.edu

Mary’s disc, like most people’s, has two parts including the hard annulus and the inner nucleus which is more like sticky phlegm according to Dr. Stuart McGill. Have a look at the parts of the picture above and note the annulus and nucelus.

When she bent forward that morning it was like squeezing a jelly doughnut at the front. She squeezed the disc and forced the stuff on the inside backwards.

After many years of repetitive toe touching and sitting slouched at her desk as a project manager for 12 hours a day, she squeezed the nucleus back through the many layers of the protective annulus, squeezing her nerve. Ouch!

The pressure on her nerve pinched enough causing her to feel pain from her lower back all the way to her big toe or little toe.

Does this sound familiar to you?

Mary didn’t hurt her disc this morning, or last week when she lifted that bag of cement. She hurt her disc everyday. By doing her toe touches and sitting slouched with a rounded back all the time Mary made her disc gradually break down. It only reached the painful point when the disc was so broken down that it bulged out and pushed on the nerve.

Why didn’t she feel it earlier then? Well, here’s the problem, there are no nerves inside the disc, only on the outside of the disc. Without nerves in the disc you can damage it quite substantially and not even know about it.

Mother was right, when she told you to sit-up straight, sitting slouched damaged Mary’s back don’t let this happen to you. I would modify what mother said a bit, but she had the right idea. Just remember to keep the curve in your back.

Disc Herniation Stages

Disc Herniation Stages-        Picture from Morphopedics

You often can’t feel a disc bulge or even prolapse (see picture above) even when you can see them on an MRI. Many times the disc has extruded (extrusion) out before you can fee the pain.

See Also: MRI, CT scan and X-rays: Is an MRI, CT Scan or X-ray Best For My Pain?

The four stages of disc herniation are: see picture above

  • Bulging Disc

  • Prolapse Disc

  • Extrusion of the Disc

  • Sequestration

Bulging Disc: The annulus breaks down with your bad movements and starts to degenerate, allowing the nucleus to start to bulge at first.

Prolapse Of The Disc: After the disc bulges, a few more layers of the disc breaks down causing it to bulge even more, but the nucleus stays within the last layers of the annulus.

Extrusion of the Disc: When all the layers of the annulus have broken down and there is substantial pressure on the nerve this is called an extrusion of the disc.

Sequestration: The disc bulges very far and pieces break off and are left near the nerve or spinal cord.

Why Did Your Disc Herniate When You Don’t Do Toe Touches Like Mary? You probably won’t like the answer, but I’ll tell you anyways. It’s you and your parents.

Two major things affect your discs:

1.      How you move your body.

2.      What genes you inherited from your parents.[1]

You can’t do anything about your parents or your genes, however you can change your habits to help your lower back

To start, you should learn to lift properly using the butt lifting technique. If you haven’t read this article on lifting, you should: Lifting Technique: Weight lifters Vs Chiropractors Back Saftety Lifting Technique.

After learning to lift properly you should also learn how you move your body during daily activities. Most people that this downtown chiropractor sees aggravate their lower back everyday.

Here’s how to change your daily activities so you don’t damage your disc.

1. Doing Daily Activities Correctly helps you stop pushing the disc further and further out.

2. Disc Exercises Help by pushing the disc back in.

3. Stabilization Exercises Help by keeping the disc from coming out by normalizing how your spine moves.

Here is a list of the daily activities that you should change to improve the disc your lower back.

All these things except for driving and sitting have something in common. These daily activities push your disc out toward your nerve when you bend forward or go into flexion.

You don’t need to learn how to do all these daily activities over again. You simply need to learn one basic move. This basic move is the basis for all of the daily activities.

Practice it over and over like a skier making a new path through fresh snow. After ten times you have a nice little groove through the snow. After 30 times the groove has become deep, icy and set.

Disc Herniation: Learning to Squat Using A Broomstick

Perfect This  Basic  Butt LIfting Technique To Help Your Disc Herniation

See Also: Lifting Techniques: Weight Lifting vs. Chiropractors’ Back Safety Lifting Technique

Practice butt lifting by placing any long piece of wood or pole behind your back.

  • Make sure it touches your butt, your mid back and back of your head
  • Look in the mirror or get someone to watch you
  • You should stay in contact while you bending down at all three points.
  • Practice 30 times.

Then you integrate this into everyday life. Initially, whenever you do any of these activities, use the same basic move and you will stop pushing out your disc.

At the beginning you will need to be conscious each time you are doing any of these activities. To speed things up you can practice each activity like picking up your socks 30 times and it will become even more automatic. In fact, you can deepen the groove during all of these activities.

For sitting in a chair and driving I recommend that you roll up a towel and tape it on either end and put that in the arch of your low back

Guide for disc herniation daily activities.

  • Remember to do all these movements pain-free. Always stop whenever you run into pain with any movement of the spine.
  • Disc herniations are linked with long periods of sitting, especially prolonged driving.
  • Disc herniations are caused by repeated flexion.
  • Prolonged trunk flexion or twisted or bend sideways cause disc herniations.
  • Too much lifting, pushing/pulling causes disc herniations
  • Vibration while sitting is linked to disc herniations.
  • After prolonged stooping or sitting, you should stand. For example, a gardener lifting bags of peat moss after having a prolonged period of rounded lower back, or a driver getting heavy loads out of trunk after a long drive is not recommended. You should remember to stand for a few minutes before attempting to lift. Studies have shown that ½ hour is even better.

Here are some more exercises that can cause a disc herniation.

Yes, it’s very surprising that toe touches, Yoga and Pilates can cause disc pressure leading to disc herniations. I have personally treated dozens of Yoga teachers with varying degrees of experience. The fact is some of the exercises involved in Yoga are great for helping a disc herniations while others directly push the disc out.

I personally know many Yogis that have had to stop many of their exercises due to the pain it causes them in various parts of the body, including their disc.

Next week’s article will go over the second and third way to help your disc. Remember, you need to do #1 “Daily Disc Activities Correctly” first so that your disc doesn’t keep getting aggravated.Then you can move on to next week’s article which goes over #2 Disc Exercises to Push the Disc Back In and #3 Stabilization Exercises help by keeping the disc from coming out by normalizing how your spine moves.

Tell us what you think in the comments below and like us on Facebook. This Toronto Downtown Chiropractor will answer all questions in the comments section.


Dr Ken Nakamura

Who is Dr. Ken? I’m a father, spouse, chiropractor, and I love what I do! I created Bodi Empowerment to bring you and everyone-else safe and effective methods for self-treatment by basing my articles on research to everything I can. Still many parts will be based on 18 years of experience, seminars, and collaboration with other health experts; which means you will get opinions as well. Sometimes my articles won’t agree with what is currently accepted, but I am not here to please everyone. I’m here to empower you through the knowledge that I give you. Dr. Ken works at Rebalance Sports Medicine in downtown, Toronto.

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