Disc Prolapse & Sciatica: Symptoms, Exercise and Treatments

What is Disc Prolapse & Sciatica

Sciatica is a common condition that causes pain and discomfort in the lower back, buttocks, and legs. It occurs when the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back through the hips and down the legs, becomes compressed or irritated. One  of the most common causes of sciatica is a disc prolapse.  In this article, we will discuss what disc prolapse is and how it can lead to sciatica.

A disc prolapse, also known as a herniated disc or slipped disc, occurs when the soft inner material of a spinal disc bulges out through a tear in the outer layer. This can happen due to age-related wear and tear, trauma, or repetitive strain on the spine. When this happens, the disc can press against nearby nerves, including the sciatic nerve, causing pain and other symptoms.

There are various forms of slipped disc issues that can occur:

  • Protrusion : The disc bulges out, but the outer layer is not torn. 
  • Prolapse: The inner material bulges out, and the outer layer is torn. 
  • Extrusion: The inner material breaks through the outer layer and leaks into the spinal canal. 
  • Sequestration: The inner material breaks through the outer layer and leaks into the spinal canal, forming a free fragment.

Symptoms of Disc Prolapse:  

The symptoms of disc prolapse vary depending on the location and severity of the herniated disc. However, common symptoms include:

  1. Lower Back Pain: The most common symptom of disc prolapse is pain. This pain can range from a dull ache to a sharp, shooting pain. It may be felt in the lower back, buttocks, and legs, and may worsen  with movement or prolonged sitting or standing.
  2. Numbness or tingling: When a disc presses on a nerve, it can cause numbness or tingling in the affected area. This sensation may be described as pins and needles or a burning sensation.
  3. Weakness: Disc prolapse can also cause weakness in the affected leg. This may make it difficult to walk, stand, or lift objects.
  4. Bowel or bladder changes: In rare cases, a disc prolapse can compress nerves that control bowel and bladder function, leading to difficulty urinating or having a bowel movement.

Causes of Disc Prolapse:  

As mentioned earlier, disc prolapse can occur due to age-related wear and tear, trauma, or repetitive strain on the spine. Some factors that may increase the risk of developing a disc prolapse include: 

  1. Age: As we age, the discs in our spine lose their water content, making them less flexible and more prone to tearing or bulging.This is why disc prolapse is more common in people over 40.
  2. Occupation: Jobs that involve repetitive lifting, bending, or twisting can put strain on the spine and increase the risk of disc prolapse.
  3. Obesity: Excess weight puts added pressure on the spine, increasing the risk of disc prolapse.
  4. Genetics: Some people may be more prone to disc prolapse due to genetic factors that affect the strength and structure of their spinal discs.

Exercise for Sciatica from a Herniated Disc

While it may be tempting to rest and avoid physical activity when experiencing sciatica, staying active is crucial for managing symptoms and preventing future episodes. However, it is important to avoid high-impact activities that may worsen symptoms. It is best to consult a doctor or physical therapist for guidance on the appropriate level of intensity and duration for your specific condition. 

Some exercises that may help include: 

Cobra Pose: 

Lie on your stomach with your legs straight and your hands under your shoulders. Slowly lift your chest off the ground while keeping your hips and legs on the floor. Hold for 10-15 seconds and then lower back down. Repeat 10 times. The benefit of cobra pose  is that it helps strengthen the muscles in your lower back, which can help support the spine and prevent disc prolapse.  

Reverse Leg Raise: 

Lie on your stomach with your arms stretched out above your head. Slowly lift one leg off the ground, keeping it straight, and hold for 5-10 seconds. Lower back down and repeat with the other leg. Do 10 repetitions on each leg. This exercise helps strengthen the muscles in your lower back and buttocks, which can help support the spine and prevent disc prolapse.  

In addition to this, you can also try this entire exercise routine for alleviating back pain.

Conservative Treatments for Disc Prolapse: 

Treatment for disc prolapse will depend on the severity of the herniation and the symptoms experienced. In most cases, conservative treatments are effective in managing symptoms and promoting healing. Conservative treatments may include:

  1. Physical therapy: 
    A physical therapist can teach exercises to strengthen the muscles supporting the spine and improve flexibility. They may also use techniques such as heat or ice therapy, ultrasound, or electrical stimulation to relieve pain and promote healing.  
  2. Epidural steroid injections: 
    Injections of corticosteroids into the affected area can help reduce inflammation and pain.

Surgical Treatment

Endoscopic Spine Surgery

Endoscopic Spine Surgery (ESS) is an ultra-minimally invasive surgical procedure...

Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

After making a small incision a tubular refractor is inserted and positioned...

If you are seeking guidance on the appropriate treatment and severity of your condition, please schedule an appointment with Dr. Rajesh Verma. Should your condition require surgical intervention, Dr. Verma is a highly skilled and experienced Joint Replacement & Spine Surgeon in Gurgaon and Delhi NCR, who can provide you with the best possible care.

Preventing Disc Prolapse: 

While disc prolapse cannot always be prevented, there are some steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing one:  

    1. Maintain a healthy weight: Excess weight puts added strain on the spine, increasing the risk of disc prolapse. Maintaining a healthy weight can help prevent this. 

    1. Practice good posture: Sitting or  standing with good posture can help reduce strain on the spine and prevent disc prolapse. 

    1. Exercise regularly: Regular exercise can help strengthen the muscles that support the spine and improve flexibility, reducing the risk of disc prolapse.

If you experience symptoms of disc prolapse, it is important to seek medical attention for proper diagnosis and treatment.

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