Around 40% of all low back pain is caused by intervertebral disc injury. It is important to know that disc injuries develop over a period of time and are a process – not a singular event. As a result, careful management of a disc injury is crucial to prevent it from getting worse. Often people may hear of disc injuries and worry about surgery, but the good news is that 96% of intervertebral disc injuries don’t require surgery.
During the acute phase of injury:
- Avoid standing slightly bent forward (approximately 15°) for any prolonged period, i.e. vacuuming, sweeping, working at a bench or even brushing your teeth over the sink.
- When you sit down, the pressure that is placed on your lumbar discs is doubled; as a result, it is advised to spend no longer than 15 minutes seated at one time when pain is severe. Make sure to keep moving, stand up and walk around at 15-minute intervals.
- When sitting, it is beneficial to have the knees below the height of the hips, so your legs are at an angle of more than 90 degrees – try sitting on a foam wedge to achieve this.
- When standing it can be helpful to sway from side-to-side to alleviate discomfort.
It will take approximately 3 months for 100% recovery and healing of disc tissue (this time-frame will be 12-18 months for diabetic patients or smokers).
Maintaining activity is also extremely important in your recovery. Movement allows disc injuries to heal by creating blood and nutrient flow into the disc from the vertebral bone. Be sure to discuss a suitable exercise plan with your practitioner. A 15 to 30-minute daily walking is one of the best ways to guarantee good nutrition to the healing disc.
Remember that this is a process. You have lost a degree of the normal coordination in your back and completing an exercise program to rehabilitate your back over the next 3 months is the best way to prevent a relapse at a later stage.