Discopathy is a progressive disease in which one or more intervertebral discs undergo changes and lose their strength and elasticity. Although we call these degenerative changes a disease, a herniated disc is more of a condition that manifests with age and much less frequently due to trauma or genetic predisposition.
What is discopathy?
The spine is composed of a series of vertebrae arranged one above the other in an S-shaped column. From top to bottom, these vertebrae are arranged as follows: seven cervical, 12 thoracic, five lumbar, five sacral, and 3 to 5 caudal.
Between them are intervertebral discs, which in simple terms play the role of “shock absorbers” or “cushions”. The task of the discs is to protect the vertebrae of the spine by absorbing tension and load during daily activities such as walking, running, lifting, twisting and others.
Each of these discs is composed of a soft, gelatinous part and a strong outer ring. Over the years and with the age of a person, they gradually begin to lose their water content, reduce their height, and lose their elasticity. Then degenerative processes begin to develop, in which part of the gelatin nucleus can go beyond its hard shell, enter the spinal canal, and press on the nerve roots. This causes severe pain, stiffness, change in movement, and a bunch of other problems. This condition is called discopathy (disc herniation) or degenerative disc disease.
Factors influencing the development of disc herniation
Age is one of the biggest risk factors for the appearance of this disease, because as we have already mentioned, as we age, the discs naturally shrink and lose their elasticity. According to global health experts, almost everyone over the age of 60 has some form of discopathy.
Other factors that have a significant impact on the occurrence of this disease are:
- Improper posture
- Improper lifting of heavy objects
- Constantly repetitive actions
- Back injuries in accidents
- Injuries caused by physical exertion
- Car accidents
- Not very dynamic lifestyle, and others
Symptoms of the disease
Discopathy can occur in all areas of the spine, but most commonly occurs in the lower back or neck. The symptoms that occur depend a lot on which disc is damaged (worn) and whether a nerve is pinched and which one.
The most common symptoms include pain that affects the following areas:
- Lower back
- Extends from the waist to the back of the legs
- Extends from neck to arms
- Intensifies (worsens) when lifting heavy, twisting, or bending
- Manifested when sitting
Depending on the form and extent of the disease, the pain may be severe for a short time and then go away, but it can also worsen and lead to muscle weakness and even atrophy. It is quite possible that the disease is completely asymptomatic.
Complications of disc herniation
If this degenerative condition is not treated in time and corrective measures are not taken, the disease can worsen and lead to osteoarthritis (OA). In this form of OA, the vertebrae rub against each other because there is nothing left of the intervertebral discs. This can cause not only severe pain, but also problems such as:
- Restrictions on activities that can be performed
- Muscle atrophy
- Insensitivity in the arms and legs
- Sexual dysfunction
- Depressed states, etc., etc.
And this is not the only possible complication.
If the symptoms of the disease are ignored, it can lead to quite severe permanent nerve damage and, in rare cases, to the interruption of nerve impulses to the nerves in the lower back and legs. This means that the intestines or bladder cannot be controlled.
Another long-term complication is known as saddle anesthesia. In this case, the deformed disc compresses the nerves and sensation is lost on the inside of the thighs, the back of the legs and around the rectum.
Diagnosis of degenerative disease
In the presence of one or more of the symptoms just listed, urgent measures should be taken to identify the type of disease and prescribe appropriate treatment.
Modern medicine has several effective tools for diagnosing disc herniation:
● Visual inspection and conversation with a specialist
The doctor talks to the patient, considers the risk factors that could be the cause of the symptoms and prescribes additional tests or treatment.
X-rays reveal possible degenerative changes in the vertebrae of the spine and changes, wear, or narrowing of the intervertebral discs.
● Computed tomography
CT reveals vertebral dislocations, disc changes, spinal stenosis, and other conditions.
● Nuclear magnetic resonance imaging
MRI can determine the height, shape and degree of erosion of the disc, whether there are pinched nerves, and more.
Treatment of degenerative disease
Depending on the degree of the disease, the treatment that can be applied can be conservative (medication, physiotherapy, couches, exercise) or surgical.
Surgical treatment is recommended only in cases where the degree of disc herniation is very advanced and none of the methods of conservative treatment can alleviate it.
Medication usually involves prescribing over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen, aspirin, acetaminophen, or other painkillers to stop inflammation and reduce pain. If over-the-counter medications do not help, then your doctor may prescribe stronger medications such as muscle relaxants.
Physiotherapy is performed by specialists who use specific methods that help strengthen the back muscles and relieve pain. This method gives quite good results, especially if combined with drug treatment.
Exercise for back pain involves the use of a set of exercises of varying complexity depending on the form and severity of the disease.
And as for inversion tables, in recent years more and more experts recommend them as one of the most effective means of reducing the pain of discopathy.
How do inversion tables help with discopathy?
This type of exercise and exercise equipment uses gravity to reduce pain, stretch the vertebrae, and reduce spinal compression.
How do they “work”?
As already mentioned, this type of device uses the weight of the human body and the earth’s gravity to bring relief to the spine and relaxation of various muscle groups. In order to start “working” to treat and reduce the pain of discopathy, all the patient has to do is lie on the inversion table, lean forward and relax. While on the table he can do exercises or just hang upside down.
What are the benefits of inversion devices for those suffering from discopathy?
It has been proven that a seven-minute “hanging” upside down on an inversion table counteracts gravity, and has a beneficial effect on the spine. During exercise, the pressure in the spine is relieved and the vertebrae are spaced apart. This significantly relieves the pain caused by the disc herniation.
Regular exercises on the inversion table also help to:
- Reduce stress
- Normalize blood circulation
- Increase the overall tone of the body
- Relax muscle groups
- Increase flexibility
When is the effect of inversion table exercises felt?
Over 95% of those suffering from low back and back pain who have used this device indicate that they have felt relief with the first use of an inversion table. Only after 5 to 7 minutes of using this device, those suffering from severe pain felt much more mobile, toned, and energized. Low back and back pain decreased dramatically and their movements become more energetic.