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Manage your herniated disc

Manage your herniated disc

Do you have a herniated disc?

It’s called a “slipped disc”, a ‘bulging disc”  or a “herniated disc”. It means pretty much the same thing, you have damaged the tissue that connects one vertebrae to another in your spine. This can mean anything from minor aches to very intense, crippling and life endangering pain.

In this blog, I’ll provide you with some good quality, simple-to-understand information and some ideas for what you can do.

First-go to your doctor or medical practitioner.

I suggest this as a first move because there are some instances (generally rare) where a herniated disc can have very serious and extreme health consequences.

Medical practitioners can quickly tell the difference between serious spine related issues and the more common variety of injury that afflicts so many of us. Symptoms such as loss of movement, loss of bladder or bowel control should be attended to by a hospital urgently.

A herniated disc is not an insignificant health event.   The problem is that there are no quick fix cures available. Surgery is extremely invasive and may not work. Cortisone washes give temporary pain relief but can not be used regularly because of their side effects.

What is a herniated disc?

Discs are the shock absorbers that sit between each vertebra in your spine bone. They are very strong and designed to bear large forces and load. Like all physical structures discs have a load limit. When the load placed on your disc is too great the structure of the disc can tear. The tear usually starts from the inside of the disc near the centre. The nucleus of the  disc pushed out through the tear and as shown in the illustration it can bulge up against a nerve root. This can create pain at the spine, in the surrounding muscles or in areas of the body that are fed by the nerve.

Management

It’s important to treat the pain responsibly with prescribed pain killers, reduce the load bearing onto the injured disc and take time too allow the disc to heal itself.

Alexander Technique teaches you ways to reduce destructive pressure on the injured disc by bearing your body weight in a way that distributes the load evenly. It’s important to minimise bending in the torso without immobilising yourself. Alexander Technique can show you how to bend without further injury. Your Alexander Technique teacher will also demonstrate how active rest combined with Alexander Technique integrated movement can assist in calming the area of injury.

Alexander Technique isn’t therapy or cure-it’s education. The high quality information and instruction provided by your Alexander Technique teacher can be implemented for immediate relief  and prevention of re-injury. Continuing to understand your movement through lessons in Alexander Technique allows you to accommodate  your body’s natural healing. The area is permanenetly weakened by the torn disc tissue. This is why Alexander Technique instruction can be a crucial factor in educating you to manage the damage part so that it is not further compromised in your day to day activities.

 

 

herniated disc

Herniated disc? We can help you

Alexander Technique is a useful skill to learn to help in the management of back and/or neck pain including bulging, slipped or herniated disc. Exchange a modest fee and some of your time in order to change your life.

What are you waiting for?

Call on 0448 406881 or click on the button below to  book a time

Here’s a link to Judy Stern’s (AMSTAT-American Society for Alexander Technique) video on herniated discs, where she confers with a neurologist. Have a look.

Yoga and semi-supine

Yoga and semi-supine

Yoga and semi-supine

In yoga it’s called “savasana”. In Alexander Technique it’s called “semi supine” or “constructive rest”. There are many similarities between the savasana pose in yoga and semi-supine.

Savasana has the outward appearance of something easy and yet it is described by some as one of the most difficult poses to master. At the heart of the matter is the meditative state required to completely let go of physical tension and the mental tension that accompanies it, while still remaining present and aware in the moment.

Proponents of the Alexander Technique use a version of this pose to cultivate a neutral state of balance and poise, enjoying a presence in the moment that flows into movement as well.

Active Rest

We call it ‘Active’ or ‘Constructive’ Rest, a daily practice of awareness and self care, which is particularly beneficial for sufferers of back pain.

The semi-supine position favoured in Active Rest maximises sensory feedback through full contact of the head and torso with a firm, flat surface. This feedback helps to build up kinaesthetic awareness of the width, length and depth of the spine as the core structure that is so vital to balance in movement.

You may be familiar with a popular, but often misunderstood, idea that we are about an inch shorter in height in the evening than in the morning. This has some basis in a specific physiological process at work in the spine and which Active Rest can counter to our benefit. The intervertebral discs are a remarkable part of the larger strong and beautifully integrated structure of the spine and have a unique ability to absorb and hold fluid – up to forty times their own volume! During four or five hours of being upright, however, this shock absorbency system is gradually compromised as fluid is pressed out of the discs, resulting in less cushioning between the vertebrae.

Spending fifteen to twenty minutes in Active Rest allows the load to come off the whole spine and gives the discs the time they need to fully rehydrate. This means our spine gains a slight increase in overall length, letting us enjoy our full height and our buoyancy in movement at any time of the day.

 

In both yoga and semi-supine the benefits of a lengthening spine go further. A spine without undue compression is also our pathway into the healthy operation of our Automatic Postural Patterns or APPs. APPs refer to involuntary muscular activity that facilitates voluntary movement. APP’s help to reorganise soft tissue surrounding our bones so that the muscular work of both supporting and moving parts is distributed evenly and appropriately throughout our whole body. Whenever a movement is sensed as light, easy, effortless – that’s when your Automatic Postural Patterns are at play. The desire to trigger the APPs by lengthening the spine in Active Rest explains some of the recommendations for the practice. 

 

 

Firstly, the addition of a head rest of some kind is used to foster an easy relationship of the head with the torso, gently allowing for the natural curve of the cervical spine and avoiding over-straightening the neck. The balancing of the head in relationship to the spine is crucial to ensuring that neck muscles are free to release from attachments on the skull itself right through to their attachments to the collar bones and other parts of the arm structure and ribs. The plumping up of the intervertebral discs, as described above, spaces out the articulations of the ribs with the vertebrae opening the way for full rib excursion, deepening the experience of the breath. The arms themselves are positioned palms down on the abdomen, elbows releasing gently out to the sides. This facilitates an expansion through the upper torso and shoulder girdle from side to side and from front to back. It makes any pulling back of the shoulders (and as a consequence, narrowing of the back) less likely. Resting the palms on the abdomen and the contact of our back with the floor also draws our awareness to the movement of the breath.

 

In Active Rest we ‘listen’ with our feet on the floor, enjoying a dynamic balance between hips, knees and ankles. The soles of our feet, with their large number of sensory nerve endings, play an important role in the operation of APPs. They sense the detail of the surface we are in contact with, as well as telling us about the relationship of our leg joints. This information is then sent to our central nervous system where it becomes integrated with signals coming from the rest of our body and guides the body’s determination of easy balance throughout our system. Remembering to include our ‘listening’ feet is an essential part of achieving healthy functional motor patterns.

 

Active Rest offers the benefits of ease and improved alignment before or after yoga asana practice, and can be used independently as a regular meditation to promote integrated movement and functioning. The combination of both physical and mental rebalancing offered by this pose can enhance the moment-to-moment quality of our everyday movement and our life. There are some differences in approach between savasana in  yoga and the semi-supine but the wisdom is that there are benefits to be had from doing one or both.