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People with all sorts of injuries or conditions have reaped the benefits of physical therapy. From car accidents to amputations or rheumatoid arthritis to surgery, PT can help the body re-learn, improve and exceed expectations. In fact, PT is sometimes the treatment of choice over surgery, and this is true of some back injuries. Let's focus on one such injury: herniated discs. The term alone sounds awful, excruciating, and like it needs surgical care. But before anyone picks up a scalpel, it may be wise to seek the benefits of physical therapy.
WHAT IS A HERNIATED DISC?
The spine is an amazing part of your body. It provides strength, control and movement. The bones, or vertebrae, that make up the spine are cushioned by small, spongy discs. When the discs are healthy, they act like little shock absorbers for the spine, keeping it flexible. But if a disc is damaged, it can bulge out or break open, also referred to as a herniated disc. (You may also hear the terms "slipped disc" or "ruptured disc.")
CAUSES AND SYMPTOMS
A herniated disc may be caused by:
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
A herniated disc presses on nerve roots, which can send pain all over the body. Here are the most common symptoms:
HOW CAN PHYSICAL THERAPY HELP?
Depending on the severity of the injury, there are a variety of physical therapy techniques that may be used for treatment. To better understand them, they can be split up into two main categories: passive treatment and active treatment. Passive treatments sound exactly like what they are—these treatments aim at the relaxation of the body. Active treatments are used to address joint movement, strength, flexibility and posture. It is common to begin a routine of passive treatments, then switch to active treatments. This gives the body a chance to heal and then work at improvements. But just as each patient is different, each physical therapy routine also varies. Only a licensed PT can develop a plan that is best for you. Let's explore each branch of treatments and how they can help you.
DISCUSS IT WITH YOUR PT
If you have back pain and suspect that you may have a herniated disc, it is important to see a physician right away. You will undergo an exam, X-ray and may be referred to a physical therapist. Here is what you need to know when seeing a PT:
If those two things didn't happen, here's what you need to ask for:
If PT doesn't work, surgery may be recommended. But just remember you have options. Be sure to discuss all of them with your physician/ PT before any procedure is scheduled.