10 Best Practices to Keep Your Discs From Becoming Herniated

You probably don’t think much about your vertebral discs — the soft, cushiony tissues between your vertebrae that keep your spinal cord flexible and absorb shocks when you walk, run, or jump. But the wear and tear of constant use, overuse, and misuse of your spine (in other words, living and living well!) degrades your discs and makes them susceptible to herniation.

A herniated disc bulges and may even leak out the cushioning fluid that makes up the soft interior portion of the disc. Think of pressing on a jelly doughnut and you get the idea.

When your disc herniates, the bulging “jelly” can irritate a nerve, causing pain. If enough liquid leaks out, your vertebrae might even grind against one another, bone on bone.

Doesn’t sound like fun? Don’t worry. Dr. Thomas L. Jones II, expert orthopedic surgeon in Bellaire and Pearland, Texas, believes that by becoming more conscious of your movements and adopting spine-healthy practices, you can keep your discs cushiony, soft, and functional for years to come.

 

Here are his 10 best practices to keep the jelly in your doughnut for life:

Tighten those abs

If you don’t want your discs to bulge, don’t let your tummy do it, either. Strong abdominal muscles make you look fit and trim, plus they keep your spine straight and strong. Adding crunches and other abdominal strengtheners to your routine will help your spine stay healthy.

Stand up straight

Your mom, dad, and teachers were right. Good posture is important for good health, and especially important for the health of your discs. A well aligned spine lets all of your organs function better and avoids heaping undue stress upon one or more discs.

Take a load off

Carrying extra pounds of body fat stresses your spinal column and compresses your discs. Dr. Jones helps you find a diet that’s right for your lifestyle and budget so you can shed weight healthily and lighten the load on your spine.

Lift with your quads

The quadriceps and other muscles in your thighs are much better able to withstand the stress of lifting heavy objects than your slender little spinal column is. Always bend at the knees when lifting anything heavy, and take the weight in your legs, not your back. And if the load still feels heavy, go get a hand truck and save your back completely.

Warm up, cool down

Before you run or work out, make sure you spend about 10 minutes warming up your body. Gentle turns get your spine ready for twisting without wrenching. Stretching the muscles around your spine primes them for stress and prevents them from accidentally pulling a disc out of place. Touching your toes while standing or sitting helps prime your spine, as do yoga moves such as cat/cow and child’s pose. Cooling down after a workout helps your muscles let go of stress.

Walk around

I bet you’re sitting down right now, aren’t you? If so, get on your feet and walk around a bit. Sitting for prolonged periods can lead to unhealthy habits such as slouching (bad for the back!) and also slows down your circulation.

Exercise

Walking around every once in awhile isn’t enough to keep your spine optimally healthy. Find a fun exercise routine or number of routines that you can do at least three times weekly for about 30 to 60 minutes at a time. Run, dance, skate, do martial arts — but whatever you do, don’t forget to warm up before and cool down afterward!

OK. Now take a rest

Yes, eight hours of sleep is good for your spine, too! But be careful of your position. Lying in the fetal position or on your back (if you don’t snore) are the healthiest positions for your spine. If you have any kind of back pain, Dr. Jones shows you how to use pillows between or under your legs or under your head to alleviate pressure on your back.

Don’t soldier on

If your back or neck hurts, stop. Just stop. Pain is a signal that your body needs help, so take a moment to listen. Treat the injured area with ice compresses during the first 24 to 48 hours, and heat thereafter. Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to control pain. Contact Dr. Jones if pain persists for more than a day or two.

See a spine expert

Dr. Jones is dedicated to keeping your spine as healthy as possible with the most minimally invasive, effective, and supportive therapies available. If you have back or neck pain, or just want to learn more about how to keep your spine healthy for life, contact our team at The Spine Institute of Southeast Texas by phone or email.

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