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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.
Is sitting for long periods bad

Don’t Sit Down – This is Important!

We know that repetitive behavior can cause injuries, but scientists have found that the worst type of repetitive behavior could be sitting itself. Any physiotherapist will tell you that the human body is made to move, but in our modern lives it’s hard to avoid sitting. More of our lives are online, our work and entertainment are often done through a screen. Add in the drive to work and you realize we are sitting more now than any other time in history. But why would it be bad for us?

To start with, extended periods without moving regularly causes joints to stiffen a little. Maybe not a lot in just one day, but over a long period of time joints begin to lose some of their movement.

Joints need to be able to move freely to stay healthy. This is particularly true in the spine, as the back is made up of many small bones, known as vertebrae. Vertebrae are connected to each other and move through lots of little joints. When one segment is not moving well, the joints around it have to move further to allow normal movement. If this happens with too many segments, the softer structures that restrict movement, called ligaments, are at risk of being damaged.

Is sitting for long periods badIn fact, quite a lot of lower back pain is caused by stiffness of the upper back. When we have a hunched posture our thorax is unable to rotate properly and the lower back moves more to compensate, sometimes leading to injury.

The dangers of sitting, however, go further than just bad posture and back pain. Scientists are finding that sitting for extended periods can actually increase your risk of heart disease, obesity, cancer and diabetes.

It doesn’t seem likely, but when we sit our bodies become very relaxed. Most body systems slow right down, particularly those that break down sugars and almost all muscles become inactive.

It is starting to be understood that sitting for long periods disrupts the normal functions of the body and as such is a major cause of disease. Even worse news is that just going to the gym or for an extended walk once a day doesn’t counteract this, it is much more effective to breakup long sessions of sitting by standing or walking for a few minutes. This is not to say that going to the gym isn’t important, it’s just that if you sit still for six consecutive hours you don’t undo the damage with half an hour of exercise later.

There are many simple ways to combat this problem. Standing has been shown to be much better than sitting, so if you have an office job, perhaps go out of your way to stand up wherever possible. Take your phone calls standing up or get up and walk over to colleagues instead of sending an email if you can. One minute of movement every twenty minutes could be enough to keep you in good health.

If you are suffering from lower back pain, please book in to see one of our trained friendly therapists HERE

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.
Improve your move video - physiotherapy

Improve Your Move Video

Improve Your Move by The Australian Physiotherapy Association

Improve your move through physiotherapy.

Mojo the border-collie teaches a family with physical challenges how to get their mojo back through physiotherapy and exercise.
A Truce Films production for the Australian Physiotherapy Association.

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.