Herniated Disc Prevention and Risk Management

Six Ways to Minimize Risk of a Herniated Disc
Dr. Mike McCoy

back pain picture

you've ever experienced the pain associated with a herniated disc, it's not a sensation you ever want to ever feel again. But unless you take measures to improve the condition of your back and spine, your next painful bout with a slipped disc may be just around the corner.

Herniated discs happen when everyday wear-and-tear puts excess or unnatural pressure on the spine. Some things that can cause this wear-and-tear include poor posture, obesity, heavy lifting, repetitive motions, and falls. Age-related conditions such as osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalgia can also make you more prone to a herniated disc in the back.

While there is no guarantee you won't suffer from a herniated disc, there are ways you can safeguard the health of your spine to minimize the risks.

Strengthen Core Muscles

The core consists of several muscles in your midsection that work together to provide a firm base of support for your back and spine. When these muscles are weak, the spine becomes unstable and more vulnerable to herniated discs. Core muscles can be strengthen with regular exercises such as yoga, Pilates, aerobics, swimming, biking, walking, and jogging.

Practice Good Posture

Whether you're sitting, standing, or sleeping, good posture is important to keep the spine properly aligned and to prevent excess strain on the back. When you're sitting, keep your back straight and your shoulders back. Let your butt touch the back of the chair, and keep your feet flat on the floor. Stand up periodically to stretch the muscles in your back, and neck.

Place a pillow between your knees when you sleep on your side. And when you sleep on back, put a pillow under your knees to relieve excess pressure. Avoid sleeping on your stomach as this position places strain on the spine.

When you stand up, keep your feet shoulder-width apart, shoulders straight, and your head centered above them. If you are standing for long periods of time, shift your weight periodically to prevent standing still too long.

Maintain Flexibility in the Spine

As you age, the discs in the spine dry out and start to lose flexibility. For this reason, herniated discs are more common in people over the age of 35. Not only are yoga and Pilates excellent for overall strengthening of the core, these exercises are great for improving pliability and range of motion in the spine.

Chiropractic care

Periodic chiropractic care can also reduce the risk of a herniated disc. Proper alignment of the spine and neurological function will help in reducing the probability of a finding yourself looking up at your ceiling as you are recovering from a herniated disc.

Lose weight

Being overweight places excess stress on the spine and makes the discs more vulnerable to rupturing. So if you are overweight, make the necessary lifestyle changes to shed a few pounds. If you have health conditions, talk to your doctor provider about the best course of action for you to lose weight.

Quit Smoking

Cigarette smoke increases your risk of a herniated disc by robbing the discs in your spine of the ability to absorb nutrients properly. This makes them brittle and more prone to damage.

There is no guarantee that you'll never suffer a herniated disc, but by strengthening the core, practicing good posture, dropping a few pounds, improving flexibility in the spine, and nixing that nasty cigarette habit, you'll significantly reduce your risk.