One of the most common things I hear when people find out I am a chiropractor is, “I can’t come to you, I have a disc problem.” Fortunately for them, the disc isn’t the problem. Another turn of good fortune is that chiropractic has been shown to be safe AND effective for helping with many mechanical disc problems. Slipped disc, blown disc, bulging disc, disc problems, “throwing out my back” all have a common theme; Biomechanical Dysfunction. I like to sound smarter than I really am. That basically means your back is jacked up. Not moving right. Spoilt back. This “abnormal motion” usually comes in the form of sedentary living. IF you sit for work for greater than 5 hours per day, enjoy watching up to or greater than one hour of TV, or socialize over a dinner or drinks for a couple hours after work, chances are you live a sedentary life.
So how does sitting specifically impact the disc? Your disc is made up of a soft cartilage material, similar to the ear, and is 80% water. The “shock-absorbing” qualities of the spine and, specifically, the disc rely on the water contents to maintain strength and flexibility. When you sit your lumbar spine goes into flexion or curves forward. Sitting for prolonged periods AND lumbar flexion both decrease the water content of the disc. When there is less water in the disc this decreases the strength and flexibility of the disc, decreases the function of the spine to support and protect your spinal cord and nerves, and, most importantly, increases your susceptibility to injury.
Knowing all of this, when someone says “I have a disc problem,” what they really mean is, “I have a lifestyle related movement problem. Why? Because it’s easier to blame a part of your body for breaking down than to take responsibility for poor habits that caused the break down. This means the answer doesn’t come in fixing the disc. The answer to recovery is to identify where we can create healthier movement in our day to day routine. We can also seek out healthcare professionals who can assist in our journey to a more solid foundation that supports a healthier disc and a healthier you. Stay tuned for future tips on ways that YOU can improve the health of your discs on your own.