All your life, your vertebral discs act like shock absorbers in your spine. These spongy tissues separate each vertebral joint from the one below to keep your spine comfortable and flexible as you twist and bend.
As you age, though, your discs get drier and more fragile — just like your skin, muscles, and bones — increasing your risk for a ruptured disc and the intense pain that brings. While you can’t stop your aging process, you can identify and minimize other risk factors to keep your discs as healthy as possible for as long as possible.
Our spine experts at The Spine Center at the Bone and Joint Clinic of Baton Rouge in Baton Rouge, Walker, and Prairieville, Louisiana want you to know all about the risks to your discs. Here’s a brief guide to the risk factors that increase the chances for herniated discs, and how you can avoid them.
Your parents and teachers emphasized good posture for a reason: If you slump and slouch when you sit or stand, you put extra pressure on your vertebral discs. Even the way you walk, run, or jump can exert excess stress on your discs that contributes to their wearing out, drying out, and rupturing.
One of the greatest sources of poor posture in these days of “smart” devices is looking down at your phone or tablet throughout the day. Your heavy head gets even heavier when you hold it at an angle. Those extra pounds literally weigh on your discs, increasing your chance for a rupture.
Always hold your devices at eye level, to ease up the pressure on your discs. Stand and sit with your neck and back straight. You may need to revise the ergonomics of your workspace to be more spine-friendly. Chiropractic manipulation and physical therapy can also help you develop the core muscles you need to keep your spine straight and strong.
Even though you wouldn’t think that smoke could affect your spine, it does. Smoking dehydrates your tissues, including the rubbery cushion of your vertebral discs, accelerating aging. That’s why smokers often have more wrinkles than nonsmokers.
In fact, any habit that’s not good for your body is also not good for your spine. Your vertebral discs need healthy, oxygen-rich blood that’s full of nutrients so they can repair and replace dead or dying cells. That means a healthy diet and avoiding toxins like smoke and alcohol.
Lack of exercise
Use it or lose it, the saying goes, and although that originally referred to your sex organs, it’s just as applicable to your spine. Even if you already have the beginnings of neck or back pain, that doesn’t mean you should become sedentary.
When you move your joints — including the facet joints in your spine — they release synovial fluid that lubricates and protects them. However, high-impact aerobics and other high-impact sports may put excess stress on your spine, so you may want to switch to more back-friendly activities such as walking, cycling, or swimming.
If you’re an athlete or play sports for fun, work with a trainer or physical therapist. They can show you how to move more efficiently and safely to keep your spine healthy.
Not surprisingly, if you’re obese or overweight, you’re more likely to have a slipped disc than someone who’s lighter. Excess pounds put excess pressure on your back, especially in the lumbar spine (i.e., the lower back).
If you’re obese or overweight, you might benefit from a medically supervised weight loss program. You learn how to make changes to your diet and lifestyle that help you shed pounds slowly but painlessly.
Losing weight doesn’t just protect your back from slipped discs; it also lowers your risk for life-threatening conditions, such as heart attacks and stroke.
If you need to lift heavy weights for your job, you’re more at risk for a slipped disk. Always center the weight of an object in your thigh muscles, which takes the stress off your spine. You may benefit from working with a trainer or physical therapist to ensure you’re moving and lifting efficiently and safely.
If you do have neck or back pain, don’t ignore it. Our doctors may be able to heal your discs with regenerative medicine. However, if the disc is too damaged, they may recommend other treatments, including disc replacement.
If you have back pain or suspect you have herniated discs, give us a call today at 833-774-6327. Or, book your appointment online with our convenient form.