6 Biggest Mistakes When Managing Herniated Discs

Hey, El Paso! It’s Dr. David from El Paso Manual Physical Therapy. Here’s the 6 biggest mistakes that people make when trying to manage a herniated disc so that they can avoid surgery.

Mistake number 1: twisting motions. People that stretch like this, where they push on their hip and twist their back, especially the chair, they’ll sometimes use the edge of the chair to pop their back or twist one way or the other. Or, they’ll do stretching motions with these twist. Any sort of twisting motion, even inadvertent twisting motions like reaching in the back of the car or in the house, turning to do chores, that can really aggravate herniated discs in the spine.

Mistake number 2: exercising back muscles. You hear this all the time, even doctors will say this, other physical therapists will say this, you’ll see it all over the internet “If you’ve got a back problem, exercise your back muscles.” At face value, it makes sense. Your back muscles must be weak. What we find is 8, sometimes 9, out of 10 times, the back muscles are actually too strong and there’s some muscles somewhere else nearby that are weak and it’s not always where people think. Don’t exercise your back muscles if you’ve got a back problem. More often than not, there’s a weakness somewhere else. Doing exercises like superman-type exercises where you lie on your tummy and you’re picking up your back like this or your arms and your legs to get these muscles down in here exercised, I would avoid those exercises. We rarely give those exercises to patients. It has to be a very specific condition, that one 1 of 10 condition.

Mistake number 3: sitting for longer than an hour at a time. Especially if you have a desk job, you might find that you sit for 5, 6, 8 hours or more a day. That doesn’t even include the time spent to drive to and from work or the time that you might spend eating breakfast, sitting at the table having dinner, and sitting outside of that. We tend to sit a lot in our culture. If you find that you sit for hour long stretches or more, it is a huge mistake for managing your herniated disc in your back. One of the best things that your back (your herniated disc in your back) needs is proper movement and sitting is just not much movement for your back. Avoid sitting.

Mistake number 4: stretching backwards. People will often put their hands on their waist like this and bend backwards as far as they can. Sometimes they’ll lie on their stomach and then do what’s called a cobra stretch where they push their back up. This is a huge mistake if you’ve got a herniated disc. In some cases, there’s physical therapists out there, other physicians, doctors, other medical professionals that are recommending this type of exercise. If it hurts your back to do this, that’s a great sign that it’s probably not a good thing for you to be doing. There’s very few circumstances where it’s gonna be a good thing. In most cases with herniated discs in the back, it’s not a good thing. It’s gonna be a mistake that, in the long term, might lead to having to get a surgery or having to rely on pain medications for the long term.

Mistake number 5: not drinking enough water. What many people don’t realize is discs in the spine, those cartilage pieces between the bones of the spine, are about 70% water. If you’re kind of always running a little dehydrated, that means you’re not giving your discs enough water so they can re-hydrate and fully heal like they can so that your disc can get better and you can avoid surgery. Be sure to drink plenty of water.

An easy recommendation that I have is, if you like to buy bottled water or if you’ve got a bottle of water that you like to drink from and refill, I would aim to drink 5 to 8 of those, depending on your size, a day. If you just can’t work on them throughout the day, what I would advise you to do is finish a bunch in the morning and a bunch in the evening, or before you go to sleep. Make sure you knock out as much water as you can, so that within a 24 hour period you’re getting plenty of water. You’re gonna have to go to the bathroom, but if it saves you from having surgery and dealing with a life full of limitations because of your back problem, having to take pain medications on a regular basis, it’s so worth it.

Mistake number 6: and this is by far the worst one, waiting for this problem to go away and not getting any professional help during that time. You need to do something about your herniated disc. Going to go see the doctor, especially if you saw an orthopedic surgeon and they may have done an MRI, found that you have a herniated disc, it’s super important to make sure you find the right specialist, somebody like a physical therapist who is specializing in avoiding surgery and avoiding pain medications so that you have a regimented plan on what to do to make sure your disc heals properly so that it’s not an issue in the next year and you can get back to life as usual while avoiding medications and surgery.

Many clients that come to see us have had multiple herniated discs. It’s been going on for years and maybe even had a surgery to snip the disc or put rods in their back. Sometimes they still end up with problems, sometimes worse later on. Often we can help them resolve their problem, get their function back, get back to being able to stand, walk, exercise, run, jog, lift weights, whatever they wanna do, despite having had a herniated disc. If you are in that situation, I encourage you to give us a call. Our phone number is 915-503-1314. Ask for help. Tell us about your back problem.

Take advantage of our free discovery visits. We reserve a few each week so that you can talk to a specialist physical therapist about your back condition to see if we’re the right person to help you get to your goals. Another option is to go to our website. We’ve got an e-book online that has got 10 tips. If you sign up on our website, go to our website, we’ll email that to you instantly and you can begin to work on those tips at home so that you have some specific help for your back problem. Hope you have a wonderful day, El Paso! Bye-bye!

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