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Lumbar Disc Degeneration: Overview, Causes, and Symptoms

What is it?

The discs of the spine sit between the vertebral bodies and act as shock absorbers for the spine. In the lumbar spine the outer part of the disc is made up of thick fibrous rings called the annulus fibrosus and the inner part is a soft jelly-like substance called the nucleus pulposus. The discs in the spine also move to allow flexibility and movement of the spine, particularly in the lumbar spine where they are the largest.

As we age, our discs begin to dehydrate, losing height, elasticity, and flexibility. The result is a spine that can feel stiffer, less flexible and a bit sore with certain movements. While almost everyone will have some degree of degeneration into their later years, not everyone will experience symptoms.

What are the Symptoms?

The most commonly felt symptoms of disc degeneration are stiffness and pain in the lower back. The pain is usually felt over the spine where the disc degeneration has occurred, but also often radiates into the buttock region. In severe cases of disc degeneration, increased wear and tear can cause bony spurs to develop on the vertebral body. These spurs can cause muscle weakness, numbness and tingling sensations in the leg and foot if they place pressure on the nerves around the spine.

How does this happen?

Disc degeneration usually affects people over the age of 50, however symptoms can begin in your 30s. As we age, all of our tissues gradually lose collagen and elastin, in the spinal discs this process results in smaller, less flexible discs. Repetitive activities like bending on the waist to lift heavy objects and prolonged sitting also cause additional wear and tear of the discs and amplify the degenerative process.

How Can Physiotherapy Help?

Imaging such as MRI and XRAY can help determine the level of degeneration that has occurred with increasing accuracy, however in recent years research has shown that the level of degeneration that can be seen In imaging cannot reliably predict the amount of pain a person will experience. This can be confusing for patients and getting scans that show large amounts of degeneration can be a distressing experience, regardless of symptoms, making patients feel helpless.

Physiotherapy can help patients return to their normal activities as soon as possible and regain optimal function for their individual presentation. In addition, physiotherapy helps patients to manage their pain by helping them understand their pathology and, strengthen trunk stabilisers to prevent recurrence of any injury.

The information in this article is not a replacement for proper medical advice. Always see a medical professional for advice on your individual injury.

Caboolture Physical Therapy Centre - serving people in need from the following areas: Caboolture, Morayfield, Elimbah, Wamuran, Beerburrum, Beerwah, Glasshouse Mountains, Toorbul, Donnybrook, Ningi, Woodford, Kilcoy, Bribie Island, Goodwin Beach, Sandstone Point, Banksia Beach, Bongaree, Bellar, Woorim, Burpengary & Beachmere.

Talking Bones on World Osteoporosis Day

October 20, 2017, marks World Osteoporosis Day. This year the campaign theme is ‘Love your Bones: Protect your Future”.

I’d like to inform the Caboolture community about the health risks of osteoporosis, which are significant, and raise awareness for positive steps towards good bone health.

With one in three women, and one in five men being affected by bone fractures annually, osteoporosis is a world health problem, and it’s growing! By 2022, it is estimated there will be 1.27 million older Queenslanders with low bone mass, which is an increase of 39% from 2012. Among Queenslanders aged 50 years and older in this year’s survey, 14% had osteoporosis and 52% have osteopenia.

In 2017 there will be 88 fractures each day among older adults in Queensland. This year alone, the cost to Queenslanders of osteoporosis and osteopenia is estimated to be around 611 million dollars.

What is osteoporosis? It is a disease that is caused by a loss of bone minerals, making bone become brittle, leading to a higher risk of breaks than in a normal bone.

Can it be stopped? It is possible! Anyone over 50 who has had a fracture from a minor injury should be investigated for osteoporosis. Women over 50 who have one of these fractures are four times more likely to have another fracture the next year. When undiagnosed, Osteoporosis can take a heavy toll on an individual’s independence, mobility, and quality of life, especially when left untreated.

Information is crucial to the prevention of osteoporosis and to achieving a good life with osteoporosis. Treatment often involves mineral supplements, hormone replacement, and medications. But the real quality of life outcomes come from management by diet, exercise, fall’s prevention strategies and training, and the recovery of good movement without pain. For this, the best evidence-based approach is with the combined efforts of a trained Physiotherapist, Exercise Physiologist and Dietician, to get you out of pain, into exercise, functional again in your community, and feeling healthy again.

At Caboolture Physical Therapy Centre, our specialised Osteoporosis Prevention team of Kaye Kerr (Physiotherapist), Alex McGee (Exercise Physiologist) and Cathy Lowe (Dietician), are here to help!

Get in touch today.

 

 

Caboolture Physical Therapy Centre - serving people in need from the following areas: Caboolture, Morayfield, Elimbah, Wamuran, Beerburrum, Beerwah, Glasshouse Mountains, Toorbul, Donnybrook, Ningi, Woodford, Kilcoy, Bribie Island, Goodwin Beach, Sandstone Point, Banksia Beach, Bongaree, Bellar, Woorim, Burpengary & Beachmere.

Osteoporosis – What is it and how can your Physiotherapist help?

Osteoporosis is a condition characterised by very low bone mass or density. Low bone mass can occur when the body loses too much bone, doesn’t make enough – or both. Osteoporotic bones become weak and fragile and can break from small forces that would normally be harmless.

 

 

But as well as loss of bone density and mass, osteoporotic bones may also be affected by abnormal changes to the structure of the bone matrix, which further contributes to weakness.

Osteoporosis is an extremely common bone disease, and women are more affected than men. As it is a progressive disorder that worsens with age, while the disease process might begin earlier, the effects are usually only noticed and diagnosed in people who are 50 years and older.

What are the Signs and Symptoms?

Often called a silent disease, many people will have no idea that they have the disease, as there are no obvious symptoms. In fact, sometimes the first sign that an individual has osteoporosis is when the first bone breaks. Along with fractures, which are the most serious signs of this disease, osteoporosis can cause the upper back to become excessively hunched (itself often a result of spinal wedge fractures) and there may be widespread pain as bony tissue is increasingly unable to withstand normal forces.

Fractures are a serious problem, especially in seniors. Bone breaks due to osteoporosis occur most frequently in the wrist, spine or hip. When the spine is affected by osteoporosis, people may develop a hunched or stooped posture. This can lead to respiratory issues and place pressure on the internal organs. Osteoporosis can severely impact a person’s mobility and independence, which can have an enormous impact on quality of life.

What Causes It?

As this is primarily a metabolic disorder, there are a variety of things that can cause osteoporosis if they either interfere with the body’s ability to either produce bone tissue or encourage excessive breakdown. This can be anything from gastrointestinal conditions that prevent absorption of calcium, lack of dietary calcium or low levels vitamin D, which is essential for absorption of calcium.

Certain medications may also cause bone loss especially if they are taken for a long time or in high doses. A good example is the long-term use of steroids. Although steroids are used to treat various conditions, it has been proven that steroids can cause bone loss and eventually, osteoporosis.

As bones respond to force and weight bearing by building more bone, having a sedentary lifestyle or doing activities with low impact (i.e. swimming, cycling) can also lead to osteoporosis.

How Can Physiotherapy Help?

Physiotherapy can help you avoid or recover from fractures and improve your overall bone health. Physiotherapy exercises can direct you to safely increase your weight bearing, which can help build bone mass. Balance training is also an important factor as this can reduce the risk of falls. Your physiotherapist can also educate you on how to adjust your lifestyle, at home or at work, to protect your bones and improve your posture.

This information is not a replacement for proper medical advice. Always see a medical professional for advice on your individual condition.

Caboolture Physical Therapy Centre - serving people in need from the following areas: Caboolture, Morayfield, Elimbah, Wamuran, Beerburrum, Beerwah, Glasshouse Mountains, Toorbul, Donnybrook, Ningi, Woodford, Kilcoy, Bribie Island, Goodwin Beach, Sandstone Point, Banksia Beach, Bongaree, Bellar, Woorim, Burpengary & Beachmere.

The Hidden Risks Of A Sedentary Lifestyle

By now it should come as no surprise that prolonged periods of inactivity are bad for your health. It seems that the science is in, and the bad news is that long periods of sitting or inactivity is a risk factor for many diseases, independent of other factors such as obesity.

What does this mean?

This means that if you are hitting the gym for an hour a day, but are sitting down for long periods during the rest of the day without moving, you may not be avoiding the health risks that come with sitting.

So why is sitting so bad?

There is evidence that shows that when sitting for long periods, our bodies show unhealthy changes in blood pressure and blood sugar levels that over long periods of time can lead to increased risk of diabetes, dementia and obesity. How much sitting is considered too much and how long it takes for these changes to take place is up for debate. What we do know is that regularly breaking up your periods of sitting is a healthy lifestyle choice you can make for yourself in the same way that drinking water, regular cardio exercise and eating vegetables are.

The insidiousness of the issue is that it’s likely that you are sitting much more than you used to without even realising it. Car commutes to work are getting longer, working days are often spent at a desk and with the rise of online T.V, you might be guilty of three or more hours stuck in one spot catching up with your favourite characters before you know it.

I have an office job, what can I do?

The first step to changing this habit is to start being aware of exactly how long you are sitting for an uninterrupted period of more than 20 minutes. Once you start noticing your daily patterns you can identify moments where changes can be made. We’ve heard of incidental exercise, but we’ll call this ‘incidental standing’. Consider standing on the train instead of sitting or standing when you have a document to read.

Here are a few other tips to get you moving;

  • Set an alarm to go off every half an hour that reminds you to get up and get a drink (this might also help to keep you hydrated)
  • Try out a standing desk
  • Stand up to take phone calls or get up to go ask a colleague a question instead of calling them
  • Take a walking lunch break

Speak to your physiotherapist for more ideas tailored to suit your individual lifestyle.

Caboolture Physical Therapy Centre - serving people in need from the following areas: Caboolture, Morayfield, Elimbah, Wamuran, Beerburrum, Beerwah, Glasshouse Mountains, Toorbul, Donnybrook, Ningi, Woodford, Kilcoy, Bribie Island, Goodwin Beach, Sandstone Point, Banksia Beach, Bongaree, Bellar, Woorim, Burpengary & Beachmere.
back pain relief

Surprising Conditions Your Physiotherapist Can Help With

back pain reliefMuscle tears, ankle sprains, back pain, headaches and shoulder pain. These are all commonly treated physiotherapy problems and chances are, if you suffer from one of them, you’re either seeing a physiotherapist or putting it off.
Most people know how physiotherapy can help them with common injuries, particularly those involving the muscles and the joints. What you probably don’t know is that your physiotherapist has been trained to treat a huge variety of conditions. Some of them might surprise you.

Respiratory Problems

Physiotherapists are one of the first ports of call to help clear a chest infection, particularly for the very young, elderly and those with chronic conditions such as cystic fibrosis. Your physiotherapist is able to assist with drainage, breathing cycles and physical percussion techniques to help you breathe easier.

Vertigo

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo is a specific type of vertigo caused by loose micro crystals in the inner ear, resulting in dizziness when the head is turned in different positions. Your physiotherapist can give you exercises to relocate these crystals and regain your balance.
Physiotherapists can also help with habituation exercises for other types of vertigo.

Neurological Conditions

Strokes, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries and head injuries are all conditions that your physiotherapist has been trained to treat. In the private practice setting they are particularly helpful at stretching the tight muscles affected and providing specially tailored strengthening exercises.

Incontinence

For one in three women, incontinence is an ongoing problem after childbirth, and one that has a huge impact on quality of life. Your physiotherapist is well versed in teaching pelvic floor exercises, which can help you regain control.

Developmental Delays, balance and Incoordination

For some children, balance and coordination don’t come easily. Your physiotherapist is able to prescribe exercises to assist with improving balance and coordination for people of any age.

More surprising conditions your physiotherapist can help with:

  • Fibromyalgia
  • Osteo- and Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Lymphoedema
  • Osteoporosis
  • Falls associated with aging
  • Scar tissue healing
  • Jaw pain
  • Post-surgical rehabilitation
Caboolture Physical Therapy Centre - serving people in need from the following areas: Caboolture, Morayfield, Elimbah, Wamuran, Beerburrum, Beerwah, Glasshouse Mountains, Toorbul, Donnybrook, Ningi, Woodford, Kilcoy, Bribie Island, Goodwin Beach, Sandstone Point, Banksia Beach, Bongaree, Bellar, Woorim, Burpengary & Beachmere.