A herniated disc is a common problem affecting the rubbery potion between the bones of the spine (vertebrae). Degenerative changes can lead to herniated discs, which can cause nerve irritation, numbness or pain, and weakness in the legs or arms. Some people do not have symptoms and need no treatment while others may need corrective surgery. Here come several easy home remedies and yoga therapies to relive herniated disc pain, but, consult a doctor before doing some poses.
Symptoms of Herniated Disc
1. Common Symptoms
These are the common symptoms of disc herniation:
- Some people have no symptoms at all.
- When the herniated disc presses on a nerve, you may experience low back pain, and weakness or numbness in the area of the body associated with the nerve.
- Disc herniation in the lower back or lumbar area is often associated with sciatica, which is characterized by pain that travels from the buttock to a leg down to the foot. This is caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve.
- Disc herniation in the lumbar spine near the lowest ribs may lead to pain in front of your thigh.
- Disc herniation in the cervical spine neck (neck) can lead to numbness or pain in the chest, shoulders, or arms.
- Other people experience muscle spasms and muscle pains, depending on the part of the spine affected.
2. Leg-related Symptoms
These symptoms usually occur only on one leg:
- Pain starts gradually or suddenly
- Pain may be intermittent (comes and goes) or constant
- "Shooting pain" may be experienced when coughing, sneezing, or straining.
- Pain may be aggravated by prolonged standing, sitting, bending, or twisting.
- Pain may be relieved by lying down, walking, or any position that relaxes the spine and decreases pressure on the disc.
3. Nerve-related Symptoms
- "Pins-and-needles,” tingling sensation, or numbness in a leg that begins in your buttock or behind your knee and extends to your thigh, ankle, and foot
- Pain in front of your thigh
- Weakness in one or both of your legs
- Loss of bowel and/or bladder control, which are characteristic of cauda equina syndrome, a severe form of nerve root compression that is rare but serious.
The spinal cord terminates in the lower portion of the spine as a bunch of long nerves that resembles the tail of a horse (cauda equina). When these are compressed by a herniated disc, complications can arise, requiring emergency evaluation and treatment. These include:
- Worsening of symptoms such as pain, weakness, or numbness, which may interfere with daily activities
- Saddle anesthesia, or progressive numbing of the area around your rectum, inner thighs, and back of legs (areas that touch a saddle)
- Bladder and/or bowel dysfunction, which leads to incontinence or difficulty in urinating in spite of a full bladder
Causes of Herniated Disc
1. Common Causes
- Any sudden movement such as twisting or sneezing that puts a heavy strain or an increase in pressure to your lower back can force the disc to herniate or protrude.
- Repetitive activities, including those involving vibration, lifting, or sports-related activities may stress your lower back.
2. Risk Factors
- Sitting for long periods
- Pulling or lifting heavy objects
- Frequent twisting or bending of the back
- Heavy physical exertion
- Lack of regular exercise
- Performing strenuous exercises for a long time
- Starting strenuous exercises after long periods of inactivity
- Overweight or obesity
Home Remedies for Herniated Disc
Herniated discs usually heal on their own over time. Most people get better within one month, while others improve within six months. However, 10% of patients may need surgery. Experts recommend some home remedies to alleviate pain or discomfort from herniated disc, including:
Rest and relaxation on a firm bed with a small pillow for the head and another pillow under the knees often relieves symptoms. Some people may find relief by lying on their side using a pillow between the knees. However, it is advisable not to stay in one position for a long time.
2. Relieve Pain
Use a heating pad (set at low or medium) for 15-20 minutes every 2-3 hours or take a warm shower. An ice pack wrapped in towel can also be used for 10-15 minutes every 2-3 hours. Acetaminophen (Tylenol), naproxen (Aleve), or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) reduce pain and inflammation and work best when taken regularly.
3. Improve Lifestyle
Keep a healthy weight and this can reduce the load on the lower back. Quit smoking is also important. Do not lift with your back; instead, use your legs. Do not bend at the waist when lifting heavy objects. Instead, bend your knees to squat and lift.
4. Do Some Exercise
Walk short distances for 10-20 minutes on level surfaces every two to three hours. Do this only if there is no leg pain.
Here is a video of top 3 exercises for herniated discs.
Yoga Therapy for Herniated Disc
1. Modified Yoga Poses
- To lengthen yourspine, do a modified dog against the wall pose. Place palms on the wall with arms straight in front of the shoulders. Now walk feet backward and reach the pelvis back and the spine forward, maintaining the natural curve of the lower back as you slowly inhale and exhale.
- Do modified twisting poses to improve circulation to the intervertebral discs. While sitting sideways on a chair, slowly inhale, stretching upward. Then exhale, turning your torso towards the back and placing your hands on the edge of the chair’s back. Do this again on the other side.
2. Strengthening Poses
- Lengthen the spine with gentle back bends, such as locust and cobra. For each pose, lie on your belly to decompress the lumbar spine and reduce pressure on your nerve roots.
- Cat/cow pose and child's pose improve herniated discs, as well as breathing exercises like kapalabhati, bee breath, and alternate nostril breathing. Keep abdominal muscles engaged. Use props such as blankets, blocks, straps, and bolsters to modify your poses as needed.
3. Avoid Improper Poses
- These include forward bends, which puts more weight on the discs.
- Bend the knees when lifting.
It is better to take yoga therapies under the supervision of your yoga instructor.