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Published on April 05, 2016

When Good Disks Go Bad

April 05, 2016

man holding his neck in painSimilar to shock absorbers for your car, the rubbery disks located between the vertebrae in your spinal cord help keep the ride smooth as you bend, step and stretch your way through life.

Experiencing a sudden jolt, aging, carrying excess weight and even sitting with improper posture can all cause damage to spinal disks. Damage to your built-in shock absorbers can mean you’re in for a bumpy ride.

Blowing Your Shocks

Also called a slipped disk or ruptured disk, a herniated disk occurs when the gel in the center of a disk pushes out through the annulus, the outer ring of cartilage that encloses your spinal shocks. That gel may push on the nerves of the spinal cord, causing swelling and pain that can make life feel more like rush-hour traffic than a joyride.

Herniated disks can occur in the back or neck. In some people, herniated disks never cause any noticeable symptoms. But in others, pain may spread down the shoulders, arms and legs, a condition known as sciatica.

The Mechanic Is In

Doctors use your medical history, a thorough physical examination and diagnostic images to identify herniated disks and rule out other causes of back, neck, shoulder, leg and arm pain, so it is important to keep a good record of any discomfort you have.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 90 percent of herniated disk symptoms are resolved with rest, over-the-counter pain medication, physical therapy, behavior modification, moderate levels of activity, prescription medications, cold compresses and other conservative treatments. Epidural steroid injections are often helpful if nonsurgical care has not been effective.

For those who do not find relief with these methods, surgical intervention may be necessary.

You can reduce your risk of a herniated disk by staying active, maintaining a healthy weight, using proper posture when sitting or lifting heavy objects, and avoiding long car rides and smoking.

Call 815.748.2968 to make an appointment with Dave Smith, Spine Care Coordinator, to learn more about our patient-centered process for back surgery or to schedule a tour.

Desk Ergonomics for a Happy Spine

For a nation of sitters clocking countless hours basking in the glow of a computer monitor, desktop ergonomics are a big deal. Workstations should not be one size fits all. To make sure your setup is ideal, check your:

  • Monitor. The screen should be at least 18 inches from your face and the top of the screen should line up with your natural line of vision.
  • Chair. Feet should be flat on the floor to help avoid slouching. Your forearms should be parallel to the floor, and you should not have to reach up to type on the keyboard. Keep the pelvis tilted slightly forward to allow your neck and shoulder muscles to relax.
  • Posture: Maintain a neutral sitting position, facing forward, not leaning too much to any one side, with your knees bent perpendicular to the floor. Avoid crossing your legs. Elbows should stay at your sides or on the armrests.


Contact Us

Make an appointment with our Spine Care Coordinator to learn more about our patient-centered process for back surgery or to schedule a tour.

Dave Smith, Spine Care Coordinator

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