Chronic lower back pain affects millions of Americans. Many try steroid injections to ease their discomfort, but researchers now say this remedy provides only short-term relief.
A study performed in France recently found that people that had steroid injections to relieve back pain had no long term effects. They found that a single injection had the most benefit, but follow up injections had only a limited effect.
Patients rated their pain severity before the injection and again one, three, six and 12 months after the treatment.
One month after treatment, 55 percent of those who got the steroid injection experienced less lower back pain, compared with 33 percent of those who weren’t treated.
“However, the groups did not differ for the assessed outcomes 12 months after the injection,” Nguyen said.
For example, patients who did or didn’t received a steroid injection ended up in similar circumstances, with the same incidence of disc inflammation, lower quality of life, more anxiety and depression and continued use of non-narcotic pain pills, she said.
Overall, most patients found the steroid injections tolerable, and would agree to have a second one if necessary, Nguyen said. “We had no specific safety concerns and found no cases of infection, destruction or calcification of the disc 12 months after the injection,” she added.
The study doesn’t say that steroid injections should not be used to treat back pain. In certain cases of acute back pain, it can be helpful in the recovery and addressing pain management. People experiencing chronic back pain would be better served seeking alternative methods of treatment.
In this post, you’ll learn about the definition, causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of a bulging disc. But to thoroughly understand a bulging disc, it is important to learn some basic anatomy and physiology of the spine – specifically the disc which is the area affected by the condition.
Your spine is made up of 24 vertebrae. Between each vertebra are structures called intervertebral discs or spinal discs. A spinal disc has two main parts. A fibrous exterior (annulus fibrosis) made of a several layers and a soft gel-like interior (nucleus pulposus). Each disc functions to cushion the spine, absorb shock, and maintain spacing between the vertebrae.
Now that you have a basic understanding of anatomy and physiology, let’s now talk about a bulging disc in more detail.
What Is A Bulging Disc?
A bulging disc occurs when the inner layers of the annulus fibrosis begin to deteriorate allowing the soft gel-like material inside the spinal disc to bulge out to the outer layers of the annulus fibrosis. This is not like a herniated disc where the soft gel-like material completely leaks out of the outer material. Imagine stepping on a balloon without popping it – that is how a bulging disc looks
What Are The Causes Of A Bulging Disc?
A bulging disc can result from several different causes. Any of the following scenarios may cause a bulging disc:
Spine trauma or blow
The most common situations are car accidents and sports-related injuries.
Most bulging discs are a result of repetitive movements done improperly over a period of time rather than one specific injury this micro trauma causes early degeneration changes in the spine and specifically the disc.
As you age your spine starts to degenerate causing the spinal disc, which functions as a cushion, to degenerate or dry out making it more susceptible to injury.
What Are The Symptoms Of A Bulging Disc?
A bulging disc causes no symptoms unless it leads to irritation or compression to nearby or adjacent areas which can result to localized pain. The location of pain caused by a bulging disc varies depending on the affected region of the spine.
Pain in the neck, upper back, shoulders, and/or arms.
Pain in the middle back, ribs or torso
Pain in the lower back, groin, hips, buttocks and/or legs
How Is It Diagnosed?
The diagnosis of a bulging disc involves a combination of the following:
Careful physical examination
What Is The Treatment For Bulging Disc?
Most bulging discs do not present with symptoms unless there is active inflammation in the disc. A program of progressive resistance exercises utilizing the MedX Medical Spinal Testing and Rehabilitation equipment is usually sufficient to treat a bulging disc. Another effective treatment is non-surgical spinal decompression. At the Center for Total Back Care, we offer this procedure using the finest technology called VAX-D. VAX-D, which stands for Vertebral Axial Decompression, is a nonsurgical treatment for bulging, herniated or degenerative discs. Videos of both the MedX and VAX-D treatments can be found below.
Do you experience numb hands? The numbness in your hands may not be Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Many people attribute numbness in their hands to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, but in many cases it can be caused from issues in the neck, shoulder, elbow, or wrist.
The median nerve is the nerve that is involved in with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. But if you look at the picture to right, you will see it comes out near the armpit, crosses at the bend of the elbow and then glides through the Carpal Tunnel of the wrist. When affected numbness and pain is experienced at the palm side of the thumb, forefinger, and middle finger. Compression, or irritation to the nerve anywhere from the spine can refer pain to this portion of the hand.
The ulnar nerve is the nerve that innervates the ring finger and pinkie finger. Many people experience pain or numbness affecting this nerve when they bump their elbow. Commonly known as the “Funny Bone” nerve. This nerve can be affected by compression or irritation at the neck, armpit, inside of elbow, or pinkie side of wrist.
The radial nerve is the nerve the innervates the back side of the hands thumb, forefinger, middle finger, and ring finger. Many people can experience pain and numbness affected by this nerve when they experience lateral epicondylitis or commonly known as “Tennis Elbow”. But the nerve can also be compressed or irritated anywhere from the spine, armpit, outside of elbow, or thumb side of wrist.
So the next time you experience numbness in your hand, think about where you are experiencing the numbness and what area you might have irritated or compressed to cause your symptoms.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics sprain and strain injuries are the most common injuries and the back is 2nd most common place for injuries. Over the years jobs have gotten safer to minimize risk but there are certain jobs that are inherently have a higher risk for back injuries. Here is a list of the top ten jobs that have a high risk for causing back pain.
Truck Drivers – The risk for this group is the combination of prolonged sitting combined with the need to move heavy loads.
Construction workers – The risk is high in this group due to prolonged bent over positions and working with awkward and sometimes heavy loads.
Landscapers – Landscapers often work with a lot of twisting motions and are often working in bent over positions moving heavy dirt, rocks, and plants.
Police officers – Very similar to truck drivers, going from a prolonged seated position in their vehicle to going into explosive movements to apprehend suspects.
Firefighters – The equipment that firefighters have to carry can be awkward and require forceful movements, increasing the risk of injury.
EMT – The need to go from a seated position to transferring people can lead to back pain
Farmers – Farmers often have to work with heavy equipment and also do a lot of prolonged sitting on their machinery.
Auto mechanics – Prolonged bent over positions and awkward positions in confined spaces can lead to back pain
Nurses – Nurses are often responsible to transfer, bathe, and dress patients. This often leads to awkward positioning and can lead to back pain.
Office workers – Believe it or not, working at a computer workstation most of your day is bad for the back and can lead to back pain.
As you can see, the jobs that go from a prolonged seated posture to moving heavy loads or awkward movements are the most likely to cause back pain. Make sure you stretch before going from a seated posture to lifting and you will reduce the risk of injury. Are you dealing with back pain? Contact us 480-633-8293.
Lift like an infant to protect your back? Are you crazy?!?
So what does “lifting like an infant” do to protect your back? Well, have you every tossed a ball to a 2-year-old and watch them pick the ball up? They walk up to the ball really close and perfectly squat down to pick up the ball up, keeping it close to the body as they stand. Nobody taught them this is the right way to do it, they just naturally do it!
We actually “un-learn” how to properly lift by getting lazy and this comes from our improved balance as we get older. If you roll the same ball to a bunch of 6 year olds, almost every one of them would invariably bend at the waist to pick up the ball and put more strain on their back. We learn that we can do it this way and create the bad habit at an early age.
So go back to what was natural and lift like an infant to protect your back!