What is a “slipped disc”?
The first thing to say about a slipped disc is that it hasn’t “slipped”! This is a complete misnomer. Discs can’t slip, they are held in place with strong ligaments. However, they can bulge and press against a nerve root in the spine. The worse case, they can rupture!
More often the main problem with discs is that the start to thin and dry out as we get older. As a result, their ability to absorb shock is reduced. The small spinal joints which control our movements are subsequently pushed closer together. This can lead to wear and tear, inflammation and arthritis.
Most people with a “slipped disc” experience pain on one side of the body that starts slowly and gets worse over time. The pain you experience when a disc presses on a nerve is often worse when you put pressure on the nerve. This happens when you cough, sneeze or sit down.
However, some people with a slipped disc do not have any obvious symptoms. This is usually because the part of the disc that bulges out is small or does not press on the nerves or spinal cord.
What is the pain like?
A slipped disc in the lower back can cause:
- back pain during movement
- numbness or a tingling sensation in the back, buttocks, genitals, legs or feet
The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body and is made up of several smaller nerves. It runs from the back of the pelvis, through the buttocks and down the legs to the feet. If a slipped disc is putting pressure on the sciatic nerve, it leads to pain in the leg, hip or buttocks. This is known as Sciatica.
I can assess whether or not your discs are bulging and give you appropriate treatment and advice to stop the condition from getting worse.
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Poor footwear, especially high heels, cause problems from the big toe right up to the spine causing back pain.
The first area we see problems are painful lumps (called bunions) on the outside of your big toe. Typically a bunion forms from pressure on the front of the foot causing a deviation in the bones of the big toe. It creates painful pressure contact on the bunion, looks unsightly and the big toe can get stiff.
Another issue with high heels are tight calf muscles. Because as your heels are elevated, it shortens the calf muscle. This shortened muscle can have a biomechanical impact on the legs. Constant wear also applies pressure to the shin bone and added stress to it can lead to issues such as ‘shin splints’ – pain on the front of the shin, which is common in runners.
You can also get calluses, hard patches of skin, under the front and ball of the foot.
Although there is a force distribution going through the hip joint, while wearing high heels, it may not directly causes specific hip problems but it does cause stress on the area!
What to do about poor footwear and back pain? The best way to avoid these conditions is to give the feet a rest!
- Limit the amount of time in high heels if you need to wear them to work.
- Always commute in flats and trainers to take the stress away from hips and knees.
- Those who frequently wear heels should do calf stretches.
- There are self help remedies you can do to deal with pain, such as standing on the edge of a step and letting the heel drop towards the next step, allowing the feet to stretch
- Massaging the sole of the feet can help – try using a golf ball or a rolling pin.
- Other remedies include a hot bath and mobilisation, such as drawing circles or the alphabet with your foot.
- Walk properly in comfortable shoes. Why not try Nordic Walking!
Why is Sleep Important in helping Back Pain?
When back pain affects you, you might despair of ever getting a good nights sleep. Not getting enough sleep or poor quality sleep can actually make you more sensitive to pain. It can be a vicious circle if back pain makes it harder to sleep and when you can’t sleep your back pain seems worse!
Here are ten tips which may help:
- Establish a good bedtime routine. Try to go to bed the same time each night.
- Avoid large meals late at night or eat early. Fight after dinner drowsiness. If you get sleepy, do an activity until it’s closer in time to go to bed.
- A warm bath before bed can be relaxing.
- Don’t have alcohol before bed. It may relax you initially but it impairs the quality of sleep.
- Don’t read or watch Television or use an iPad in bed. TV or devices that are backlit suppress melatonin and whatever you’re reading or watching may be more stimulating than relaxing! Listen to music or audio books instead.
- Try a few gentle stretches when you lie down in bed such as pulling your knees to your chest and holding for a few seconds.
- Start off in as comfortable a position as possible such as lying on your side in a foetal position with a pillow between your legs, or on your back with a pillow under your knees.
- Don’t sleep on your stomach. This may be a habit you’ve got into but keeping your back arched backwards often aggravates back pain. To break the habit, sleep in a T-shirt with a pocket and put a ball in the pocket. You’ll know about it if you roll onto your front in the night!
- Make sure the room is dark, try not to have any digital display light on an alarm clock.
- Avoid a lie in on a weekend, it may disturb your usual weekly sleep pattern. If you need to make up for a late night or lost sleep, opt for a day time nap to pay off your sleep debt. Limit it to 20-30 mins in the early afternoon.
Osteopathic soft tissue massage treatment can help ease some of the tensions in your back which can start helping back pain through sleep.
Do You Love Your Liver?
Love your Liver Month! The liver is the largest gland, and the largest solid organ in the body. If you place your right hand over the area under the ribs on the right side of your body, it will just about cover the area of your liver.
It holds approximately 13% of your total blood supply at any given time. It also has over 500 functions.
The liver is dark reddish brown in colour. It is divided into two main lobes (the larger right and the smaller left)
Liver functions include:
processing digested food from the intestine
controlling levels of fats, amino acids and glucose in the blood
clearing the blood of particles and infections, including bacteria
neutralising and destroying all drugs and toxins
storing iron, vitamins and other essential chemicals
breaking down food and turning it into energy
manufacturing, breaking down and regulating numerous hormones including sex hormones
making enzymes and proteins responsible for most chemical reactions in the body, e.g. in blood clotting and repair of damaged tissues.
Your liver also helps the body to get rid of waste. Waste products which are not excreted by your kidneys are removed from the blood by the liver.
People with liver damage may sometimes lose the ability to control glucose concentration in the blood and need a regular supply of sugar. Symptoms of liver damage can be difficult to spot as they are not always obvious – they can include tiredness, nausea and itching.
NHS choices website has information about the signs, symptoms and causes of liver disease.
Support love your liver month by:
Drinking less alcohol
Eating less processed food (which may have additives which will increase the workload of the liver)
Taking more exercise and reducing your weight