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Lumbar Disc Pain: Home Management

lumbar-painIf you have been diagnosed with a lumbar intervertebral disc problem, it is critical to the success of your treatment and eventual recovery from the injury that you learn to correctly manage the amount of load that your lumbar discs are exposed to.

Load – What does it mean?

Load refers to the cumulative amount of work load that your lumbar spine is required to do each day. All of the different jobs we ask our bodies to perform have an effect on the supportive structures and tissues of the spine. Over the course of a day, this load really adds up.

For example, sitting down places a lot of load on the lumbar discs. If your job requires you to sit for 8 hours each day without moving around much, this places a large cumulative load on your lumbar spine. This can be very problematic if you have a lumbar disc issue.

Why do we need to manage load?

When you have a lumbar disc injury your capacity to handle the normal loads of life are greatly reduced. This means that even “normal” amounts of load my cause an irritation of your disc problem. The injury or underlying damage to the disc may be constantly re‑inflamed if you don’t provide an environment that encourages healing.

A good analogy is if you sprained your ankle and decided to walk around like nothing happened. The pain is there for a reason – to prevent you from furthering the injury and allow it to heal.

Managing your load at home is critical to a positive outcome

Managing your lumber disc load

Any task or posture that involves lower back flexion needs to be avoided. Below is a list of common postures and activities which require the lumber discs to undergo flexion and work load.

During the initial phase of treatment it is vital that these activities be avoided all together, where practically possible.

  • Sitting for longer than 15 minutes
  • Driving
  • Gardening
  • Lumbar flexion/ forward bending
  • Lifting
  • Tying shoe laces in bent over position
  • Stretching the lower back and hips *
  • Sports participation of any kind
  • Lounging on the couch
  • Computer work
  • Long walks (keep them short!)
  • Twisting motions

Stretching often feels like the right thing to do when you are tight and sore, but when your discs are inflamed stretching is more likely to put undue stress on the injured tissue than to have any lasting effect.

What Can I Do?

It may seem very limiting to avoid the above list of activities, but it not forever.

Your disc injury just needs a chance to heal. To the best of your ability, you should create a healthy environment in your body to help it to heal.

The question then becomes what should I actually do while my body is healing?

There is not an exact prescription that works for everyone but here are some general guidelines you should abide by:

  • Don’t sit for longer that 15-20 minutes at a time.
  • Get up frequently and walk around for 5-10 minutes.
  • When you are resting on the couch, lie down (rather than sit).
  • Use lumber support when sitting – this can be as simple as a rolled-up towel placed behind the lower back.
  • Take appropriate pain relief medications – we usually recommend Voltarin Rapid which is an anti-inflammatory medication.
  • Get help with any work around the house.
  • Walking is the only type of exercise that I recommend while you are inflamed. This is to be of a mild intensity only.
  • Any activity that causes an increase in pain either at the time or later in the day means the
  • activity was too much load for your injury and you should avoid it.
  • Respect your injury. With proper management and time, it will get better.

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