How to Avoid Surgery if You Have a Lumbar Herniated Disc

How to Avoid Surgery if You Have a Lumbar Herniated Disc

How to Avoid Surgery if You Have a Lumbar Herniated Disc

If you’ve been diagnosed with a ruptured or herniated disc in your back, then you’re likely suffering from muscle spasms, sharp/dull pain, cramping, leg weakness or loss of function, and/or sciatica. Your  pain likely intensifies with coughing, sneezing, or bending. Herniated discs can be very painful injuries that impact your day-to-day life. The good news is that you don’t necessarily have to get surgery to repair your herniated disc. In fact, studies have shown that 90% of patients were able to recover by pursuing non-surgical courses of treatment. The following exercises, in conjunction with proper physical therapy treatment, can help relieve your symptoms and strengthen your back muscles.

How Does a Herniated Disc Happen?

Before we get into the exercises, it’s important to know what a herniated disc is and how it’s caused.

In between each of the vertebrae in your lumbar spine, there is a shock absorbing “pad,” this is called a disc. The purpose of these discs is to protect the spine from daily activities, like walking, running, jumping, etc. Each disc has two parts: a soft, gel-like inner ring, and a touch outer ring. When your outer ring is injured or weak, it may allow the inner ring protrude out. This is commonly known as a herniated disc.

Common causes for a slipped or herniated disc are age, being overweight, weak muscles, and/or a sedentary lifestyle. You may be at increased risk for a herniated disc if you often turn or twist your back while lifting objects, or if you use tobacco or have poor posture.

 

1.       Decompress your spine

          Find something you can hang from, like a bar or the top of a doorframe.

          Reach overhead and hold the bar with an overhand grip.

          Allow yourself to hang for 30 seconds.

          Repeat 3 times.

Woman Hanging from bar with overhand grip for spinal decompression

This exercise will take pressure off your discs by creating space between your vertebrae.

2.       Prone extension

          Lie on your stomach.

          Put your forearm on the floor next to your body, so that your elbow is bent at a 45 degree angle.

          Slowly prop yourself up on your elbows, keeping your hips in contact with the floor

          Continue to prop yourself up until your elbows are bent at a 90 degree angle.

          Hold the upwards position for 10-15 seconds before returning to your starting position.

          Repeat the stretch 10 times, gradually increasing the time you hold the upward position until you reach 30 seconds.

man performing half cobra stretch in prone position

This stretch will aid in pushing the disc back towards the center to improve the healing process. When you’re performing this stretch, your goal should be “centralization of symptoms,” meaning that the pain that typically travels down your affected leg should come back up, closer to your lower back. This exercise may be hard to tolerate at first, so proceed slowly and with caution.

3.       Cat-Cow

          Begin on your hands and knees.

          As you inhale, let your stomach “drop” towards the floor and look up towards the ceiling.

          Slowly exhale, rounding your spine (upwards, towards the ceiling) while using your hands to press into the floor and slightly curving your neck to look at your feet.

          Do 2-3 sets of 10.

woman performing cat-cow stretch from hands and knees position

This stretch will open the intervertebral disc space, helping to relieve pressure on the herniated disc while improving the mobility of the spine.

 

While these exercises may help to relieve your pain and speed up your recovery process, you should still seek medical advice before performing these stretches, and utilize them in conjunction with a physical therapy treatment plan. To book an appointment, give us a call at 800-PT-FIRST or send us a request through https://www.physicaltherapyfirst.com/contactus/

 

 

*As a reminder, always discuss any questions or concerns with your physician regarding your own health and dietary needs, as the information written should not replace any medical advice.

3 Sleep Positions That Will Fight Morning Pain and Stiffness

3 Sleep Positions That Will Fight Morning Pain and Stiffness

Are you woken up every day by morning pain and stiffness? While these symptoms may be annoying or uncomfortable, don’t fret. It’s likely nothing serious.

Typically, morning back pain is a result of low-grade inflammation, which gets worse with age and is noticeably worse at the start of the day. The most underestimated culprit of early morning pain and stiffness is strain due to awkward sleeping positions or using the wrong pillow, and the back is one of the most vulnerable areas for this this type of irritation.

If your pillow is too high or stiff, your neck will remain flexed overnight, which can lead to morning pain and stiffness. Here are the best sleeping positions to help you minimize morning pain and discomfort:

If you have early morning neck/back pain, try to sleep on your side or your back.

 

Back Sleepers

When sleeping on your back, use a rounded pillow under your neck to support its natural curve, and a flatter pillow to cushion your head. An easy way to achieve this is to tuck a neck roll into the bottom of a flat pillow. To maintain the natural “S” curve of your spine, use pillows to support your lower back and knees.

image of patient sleeping on back incorrectly example of patient sleeping on back correctly

 

 

 

Side Sleepers

When sleeping on your side, avoid using pillows that are too high or too low. Keep your spine straight by using a pillow that is higher under your neck than under your head. This is one of the healthiest sleeping positions for your back because it allows you to maintain the natural “S” shape of your spine. However, Gravity can pull your lower back down and using a pillow that is too high will put strain on your neck. To support the natural curvature of your spine, you may also want to consider using a pillow to support your lower back and knees.

example of patient sleeping on side incorrectly example of patient sleeping on side correctly

 

 

 

Stomach Sleepers

Try to avoid sleeping on your stomach. This position is tough on your spine because it arches your back and turns your neck to the side. It may be hard to control how you toss and turn throughout your sleep in the night, but it is worth trying to fall asleep in a healthy position, as this posture is notorious for causing lower back pain and muscle strain. If you absolutely cannot fall asleep in another position, try using a pillow under the hips/pelvic area to raise your lower back and support your lumbar curve.

 example of patient sleeping on stomach incorrectly example of patient sleeping on stomach correctly

 

 

If your symptoms continue to persist or worsen, you may want to consider consulting a physical therapist. You cam learn more about the conditions we treat here.

 

 

*As a reminder, always discuss any questions or concerns with your physician regarding your own health and dietary needs, as the information written should not replace any medical advice.

Suffering from Lower Back Pain?

How Exercise Can Help Your Lower Back Pain:

 Are you suffering from low back pain? When your back is hurting, you may just want to lie in bed and rest. This is understandable, but it may not help you get any better. Did you know that moving is actually good for your back? Exercise can strengthen back, core, and leg muscles, helping you support your spine and relieve back pain. However, depending on the cause, severity, and type of back pain you have, some movements are not recommended and may even be harmful. Let’s go over which exercises you should try, and which ones you should be avoiding.  

Do – Partial Crunches:

Lie on the floor on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat. Place your hands behind your neck (or cross them over your chest, whichever is more comfortable for you), then tighten your stomach muscles and raise your shoulders off the floor. As you’re raising your shoulders, you should be exhaling. Do not use your arms to pull your neck. Keep your elbows straight out. Hold this position for a second, then slowly lower back down. Your feet, tailbone, and lower back should maintain contact with the floor at all times. Repeat 8-12 times and keep proper form to prevent excessive stress on your lower back.

Image of woman doing partial crunch

Avoid –  Sit-ups:

Sit-ups may put a lot of pressure on the discs in your spine. While you may think they will help you strengthen your core muscles, it is best to avoid this exercise if you’re struggling with low back pain.

Image of woman doing full situp

Do – Lumbar Extension Stretches:

If you suffer from disc herniation, this exercise may help you. However, if your pain is a result of a vertebrae fracture or spinal stenosis, be very careful. Start by lying on your stomach. Bend your elbows underneath you and keep your palms flat against the surface. Keeping your hips and pelvis in contact with the surface, lift your upper torso off the ground. Only go as high as you feel comfortable. Do 10 repetitions, holding the pose for 10 seconds each time, and work yourself up to 30 seconds.

Image of woman doing prone press-up stretch

Avoid – Burpees:

Burpees are a high impact exercise that are supposed to be done at a high speed. This combination can be detrimental to those who are suffering from low back pain.

Image of three key burpee movements

Do – Sciatic Nerve Stretch:

If you are experiencing radiating pain in the legs, buttocks, calf, and/or foot, then this stretch may benefit you as if follows the path of the sciatic nerve. Stretching the nerve will desensitize it and reduce your pain. Start by lying on your back with your hand behind your knee on the side where you have pain. Flex your knee and then flex your ankle back and forth, holding each position for a few seconds Perform 10 repetitions on each side.

Image of man on back with leg lifted for sciatic nerve stretch

Avoid – Double Leg Lifts:

This movement should be avoided by those with lower back pain. Often times, people use their lower back to hoist their legs in the air, putting pressure on the spine. This is ineffective and may lead to further injury or increased pain.

image of woman on back with both legs lifted for double leg stretch

Still experiencing pain? Request an appointment.

*As a reminder, always discuss any questions or concerns with your physician regarding your own health and dietary needs, as the information written should not replace any medical advice.

 

 

Massage Therapy and Spa Massages: What’s the Difference?

Medical Massage Therapy Versus Spa Massages: What’s the Difference?

What’s the difference between a spa massage and a medical massage? After all, a massage is a massage, right? These types of treatment each have a unique purpose.. Keep reading to learn which one is right for you!

 The Goal of the Massages

A clinical massage usually has a defined purpose in mind: to relieve pain or tension on a specific part of the body. You may have been referred by a physician, and your insurance may even be covering all or some of your visits. With medical treatment, the intention is to improve a specific ailment or condition. However, in a spa setting, there is no clear end goal in mind. Often times, the reason for a spa treatment is more general. The therapist seeks to relax and destress the patient, rather than to heal them.

Different Techniques for Different Circumstances

You may be seeking out massage treatment to relieve muscle pain or tension, or just to relax and unload some stress. However, you do not want to mistakenly pursue the wrong course of treatment. Patients often seek out medical therapy for a specific injury or pain. Naturally, in a medical setting, you will experience more targeted techniques, such as Myofascial Release or Trigger Point Therapy. The therapist will approach the treatment with your specific needs in mind, resulting in more individualized treatment. If you have a specific pain or dysfunction that you wish to address, then you should consider seeking out medical help, rather than spa treatment.

During a spa visit, you’ll likely receive more basic therapy that is focused on relaxation.  Although spa therapists have been trained in the  general art of massage, they may not have the same level of expertise as a physical therapist. Our therapists have received additional training in the form of continuing education courses and certifications, which allow them to provide advanced care and treatment styles.

 The Results

While a spa massage may successfully relax you or temporarily relieve some stress, medical massage will produce tangible results. Medical massage therapy treatment is planned out with a specific goal in mind, and your massage will factor into a larger treatment plan that is based around your health needs and goals.

Think you’re a good candidate for medical massage therapy? We have several therapists who are certified in Myofascial Release and Trigger Point Therapy. To check out our staff’s qualifications., you can go here: https://www.physicaltherapyfirst.com/about/staff/

 to book an appointment, please visit the contact us page or call us at 800-PT-FIRST

Exercises for Toddlers

Although the colder months are quickly approaching, it is still important for you and your family to stay physically active. We’ve previously highlighted exercises that kids can perform using an exercise ball,  and today’s post will focus on simple exercises for toddlers that you can enjoy together. These exercises can encourage your toddler to stay active in a fun and engaging way!

Exercises for Toddlers #PTtip Video

The exercises demonstrated within our #PTtip video include:

  • Seated Hands to Toes Stretch
  • Butterflies
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Frog Hops
  • Wheel Barrow
  • Row-your-Boat

Healthy Diet

In addition to staying active, a diet filled with nutrient rich foods is important for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Not only can we make physical activity fun and engaging, but healthy eating as well! The holiday season is just around the corner, so now is a great time to get creative in the kitchen. You can make festive healthy foods for you and your family to enjoy together. Fruits and vegetables are also an important part of a healthy diet. However, it may be difficult to convince your picky toddler to eat them. Parents should consider using cookie cutters to make fun shapes out of fruits and vegetables, such as pumpkin shaped sweet potato rounds or snowmen-shaped banana or apple slices. Star or snowflake shaped zucchini or cucumber slices are also another fun way to serve vegetables!

Make sure you watch the PTtip video to learn how to properly perform the above exercises, and if you have any questions or would like to make an appointment with one of our physical therapists, give us a call today at 1-855-PT-FIRST!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*As a reminder, always discuss any questions or concerns with your physician regarding your own health and dietary needs, as the information written should not replace any medical advice.

Tips for Relieving Back Pain during your Daily Routine

We hope everyone has been enjoying the fall season! These tips are your first steps to relieving back pain if you experience it throughout the day. If you missed our first post on back pain, which offered three simple stretches for the lower back, you can view it here. The tips provided today within our PTtip video easy to implement and focus on a variety of different circumstances that may contribute to back pain:

The tips offered within our PTtip video focus on relieving back pain by:

  • Using a pillow while sleeping for lumbar support and to relieve knee, hip, & lower back pain.
  • Carrying one’s bag, purse, or briefcase properly to avoid catering to one side of the body.
  • Viewing one’s cellphone screen with proper posture to relieve upper cervical spine pain.
  • How to relieve lower back pain when standing for prolonged periods of time.

Relieve Your Back Pain with These Tips

 

Don’t Forget Healthy Eating

The winter season is approaching and it is a popular time for fall related activities like visiting a local apple orchard or pumpkin patch. There is still time to experiment with different in-season fruits and vegetables that are now at their peak!

One in-season vegetable to consider trying are Brussels sprouts. High in vitamin C and a good source of dietary fiber, Brussels sprouts can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. For example, you can roast them in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil and your favorite spices, or even steam them before adding them to your favorite pasta, stir-fry, or salad dishes!

Of course, it wouldn’t be the fall season without mentioning pumpkin. Pumpkin is an excellent source of vitamin A and vitamin C. Pumpkin can be enjoyed in many ways, either in its whole or pureed form. So, if you’re interested in experimenting with pureed pumpkin, consider making homemade baked goods such as bread or muffins, blending pumpkin into a festive fall smoothie, or even homemade making pumpkin soup- perfect to try during the colder temperatures!

Make sure you watch the PTtip videos to learn different ways to help with relieving back pain, and if you have any questions or would like to make an appointment with one of our physical therapists, give us a call today at 1-855-PT-FIRST!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*As a reminder, always discuss any questions or concerns with your physician regarding your own health and dietary needs, as the information written should not replace any medical advice.

 

 

References

Produce for Better Health Foundation. (n.d.) Brussels Sprouts. Nutrition. Selection. Storage. Retrieved from https://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/brussels-sprouts

Produce for Better Health Foundation. (n.d.) Pumpkin. Nutrition. Selection. Storage. Retrieved from https://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/pumpkin

 

Warm Up Exercises for Runners

The fall season is a popular time for enjoying time outside, training for fall sports, and participating in road races now that the cooler, crisp temperatures are here. Whether you’ve signed up for a local running race or simply just enjoy heading outside for a run, today’s post will highlight some of our favorite warm up exercises that can be added into your workout routine before you head out for your next run:

PTtip Video Warm Up Exercises for Running

The exercises demonstrated within the PTtip video include:

  • Calf and Hip Flexor Stretch
  • Frankenstein Exercise targeting the hamstrings
  • Walking Forward Lunges with Twist targeting the lower extremity & lower back

Tip

Remember to stay properly hydrated! Keeping hydrated is just as important during the cooler months as it is in the warmer months. This may be harder to remember when you’re not sweating, or when you don’t feel as thirsty. To help you keep hydrated, try enjoying some of the fall produce that is now abundantly available. Certain fruits and veggies like broccoli and apples have a high water content.  This can help contribute to your fluid intake. Not only will they help you keep hydrated, but they will supply your body with healthy nutrients as well! For breakfast, try adding fresh apple slices to salads, yogurt, or oatmeal. For lunch or dinner, consider adding and broccoli florets to pasta, garden salads, or casserole dishes. These are just a couple of the many ways to enjoy these in-season produce options. Keeping a reusable water bottle with you is another easy way to help remind you to stay hydrated!

Make sure you watch the PTtip video to learn how to properly perform the above warm up exercises, and if you have any questions or would like to make an appointment with one of our physical therapists, give us a call today at 1-855-PT-FIRST!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*As a reminder, always discuss any questions or concerns with your physician regarding your own health and dietary needs, as the information written should not replace any medical advice.

Exercises for Kids using an Exercise Ball

Although the summer is over and the school year has begun, it is still important to remember to get an adequate amount of daily physical activity not only for you but your kids as well! Today on the blog, we’ll be highlighting exercises for kids using an exercise ball. Prior to sitting on and performing exercises using an exercise ball, it is important to determine which size works best for you. Therefore, make sure to watch our PTtip video where Dr. Maureen Ambrose, PT, DPT, OCS, OMPT, shares her own tips on how to choose the right size:

Exercise Ball Tips PTtip Video

Now that you know which size to choose, our PTtip video explains both how to properly sit on an exercise ball while doing schoolwork and demonstrates fun, engaging exercises using the exercise ball, such as a simple game of catch and the classic game of ‘hot potato,’ that your kids can perform that target the core, arm, and back muscles:

Exercises for Kids using an Exercise Ball PTtip Video

The fall season is officially here, and with a new season also comes an array of new in-season produce options to try! For example, you may spot a wide variety of squashes at your local grocery stores or farmer’s markets. One type of squash that is now in-season is delicata squash. Delicata squash is an excellent source of vitamin A and also a good source of vitamin C. Simply roasting in the oven by halving the squash, scooping out the seeds, and seasoning with a drizzle of olive oil can be an easy way to try this vegetable to see if you like it! Another in-season produce option to enjoy this time of year is pears. Several varieties are available, and this fruit supplies a great amount of dietary fiber. One creative way to enjoy pears is by making homemade pear sauce just as you would with apples!

Make sure you watch both PTtip videos to learn how to choose the right size exercise ball and how to properly perform exercises that your kids can do with an exercise ball. If you have any questions or would like to make an appointment with one of our physical therapists, give us a call today at 1-855-PT-FIRST!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Produce for Better Health Foundation. (n.d.). Delicata Squash: Nutrition. Selection. Storage. Retrieved from https://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/delicata-squash-nutrition-selection-storage

Produce for Better Health Foundation. (n.d.). Pear: Nutrition. Selection. Storage. Retrieved from https://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/pear

 

 

 

 

*As a reminder, always discuss any questions or concerns with your physician regarding your own health and dietary needs, as the information written should not replace any medical advice.

Lower Body Exercises

We hope September has been off to a great start for everyone! Last month’s post highlighted several quick and easy lower body exercises that you can incorporate into your exercise routine. In case you missed it, you can read it here.

For today’s post, we’ll be sharing additional exercises that specifically target the lower body. Try adding these into your exercise routine for a revamped workout!

The Lower Body Exercises Demonstrated Within the Video Include:

  • Lower Leg Stretch with a Thera-Band
  • Heel Raises with and without Weights
  • Farmer’s Walk on Toes
  • Pivoting Curtsy Lunge
  • Dumbbell Split Jumps

Leg Exercises PTtip Video

 

Additional Tip

Now that September is officially here, many of us are gearing up for the upcoming football season. Are you planning on hosting weekly game day gatherings to cheer on your favorite team? If so, consider incorporating healthier versions of your favorite game day snacks! These are not only tasty, but easy-to-make as well! There are several varieties of apples available throughout the fall months. One creative way to incorporate them into your game day party is by baking homemade apple chips. You can also bake homemade chips using sweet potatoes, another in-season produce option! Another idea to consider is baking sliced zucchini topped with tomato sauce and a sprinkle of cheese to serve as mini ‘pizza’ bites. Lastly, cauliflower is highly versatile and can be another great option to incorporate when planning your menu. An easy way to enjoy cauliflower is by oven-roasting florets and seasoning them with your favorite spices and Parmesan cheese!

Make sure you watch the PTtip video to learn how to properly perform the above exercises, and if you have any questions or would like to make an appointment with one of our physical therapists, give us a call today at 1-855-PT-FIRST!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*As a reminder, always discuss any questions or concerns with your physician regarding your own health and dietary needs, as the information written should not replace any medical advice.

 

How to Use a Suspension Trainer

 

Today we’ll be highlighting another great tool that can be added to your exercise routine: a suspension trainer. Commonly referred to as TRX, the suspension trainer can be a great tool for using your own body weight as resistance.

In our PTtip video, Dr. Alex Tan, PT, DPT, demonstrates how to perform a full body workout with the use of a suspension trainer:

How to Use a Suspension Trainer PTtip Video

With the recommended tips for each exercise:

*Always make sure the suspension trainer is securely attached to your doorframe before beginning any exercise*

Suspension Trainer Rows:

  • While holding the handles of the trainer in each hand, keep your feet flat on the floor, and slowly lean back with your arms straight out in front.
  • In a slow and controlled movement, pull yourself toward the door and then slowly come back to start.
  • Perform 3 sets of 15 repetitions.
  • For added resistance and difficulty, you can increase the angle in which you’re leaning back.
  • For an even greater challenge, you can perform the row with one arm while adding a trunk rotation, as demonstrated in the video.
  • Again, aim for 3 sets of 15 repetitions.

Suspension Trainer Squats Tips:

  • Good for helping to perfect your squat form, as the suspension trainer allows you to sit back into the squat.
  • While holding the handles of the trainer in each hand, remember to keep your movement nice and controlled when lowering down.
  • Aim for 3 sets of 15 repetitions.
  • Single Leg Squats Tips:
  • If regular squats are no longer a challenge for you, you can switch to single leg squats.
  • Again, aim to sit back into the squat as you come down and to not inch forward where your knee comes past your toes.

External Rotation Strengthening of the Shoulder:

  • While holding the handles of the trainer in each hand, start with your arms up at your sides and pull your hands backward in order to pull yourself forward, as shown in the video.
  • Perform 3 sets of 15 repetitions.
  • Again, remember to keep your movements nice and controlled.

Additional Tip

Although the start of a new school year can be a busy (and exciting!) time, it’s still important to make sure you and your family are maintaining a well-balanced healthy diet. This includes starting your day with a nutritious breakfast. When you’re crunched for time in the morning, consider homemade breakfast parfaits. You can make these with ingredients like Greek yogurt, nuts, your favorite fruit, whole grain cereal, and a dash of cinnamon and vanilla extract for added flavor!

Homemade breakfast wraps or sandwiches are another option to consider. These are quick and easy to prepare, especially if you plan ahead! Sandwiches made with a whole-grain wrap, English muffin, or bread, eggs, and a sprinkle of shredded cheese make for a tasty breakfast option. Sneak some spinach or sliced tomatoes into your sandwich for added veggies and nutrients!

A new season is approaching which means an array of new in-season produce will be available soon, so be on the look out for new fruits and vegetables to incorporate into your diet!

Make sure you watch the PTtip video to learn how to properly perform the above exercises, and if you have any questions or would like to make an appointment with one of our physical therapists, give us a call today at 1-855-PT-FIRST!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*As a reminder, always discuss any questions or concerns with your physician regarding your own health and dietary needs, as the information written should not replace any medical advice.