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Prevention is the key

By Sandra Genest-Boudreau and Christophe O. Alves [email protected]

Sandra Genest-Boudreau is French-Canadian, who graduated from the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College in 1990 before coming to the Algarve in 2002. She spent 10 years in a house practice in Québec city and two years in Vancouver. She is passionate about adjusting all her patients, particularly children.

Christophe Alves graduated from the Anglo-European College of Chiropractic (AECC) UK, and has a special interest in Sport Chiropractic.

Like most people, you probably know someone who once suffered with intense back and leg pain due to a disc herniation. You may even be one of those people who experienced it yourself. You might think that because you have a diagnosis of disc herniation you need to have surgery but that is not exactly true. There are situations where surgery is unavoidable like in the case of cauda equina syndrome which is associated with problems with bladder and bowel function. However, clinical studies demonstrate that disc herniations can heal with the help of chiropractic care.

Many people will have heard the term ‘slipped disc’ but this is a rather inaccurate name, as discs actually cannot slip. They can wear, bulge, protrude or herniate.

The intervertebral disc is the cushion between the vertebral bones that provides a buffer for compression between vertebrae. It is made, on its outer portion of a tough fibro-cartilage matrix (imagine the tyre for a car) and on its inner portion of a gelatinous nucleus (like an inner tube).  When a disc herniates it means that the gelatinous centre comes out through a tear in the outer annulus fibers. What induces pain is the pressure from the herniated disc on the nerve that happens to be passing by behind the disc.  This usually happens following cumulative stress on the spine – most commonly involving bending, twisting or lifting.

The pain of a disc herniation can be very severe but classically, you will feel a greater intensity of pain in the leg due to the nerve irritation, than that felt in the lower back. The pain in the leg is referred to as sciatica because it affects the sciatic nerve. You may feel numbness or ‘pins and needles’ in the leg, sometimes also into the foot, and you may notice that some of the muscles in the leg become weaker.

Getting up and moving around is very difficult and painful and usually, when in the upright position you cannot straighten up completely. That is a defence mechanism the body takes to attempt to move away from the pain.

To help control pain and decrease inflammation you can use ice packs in the lower back and you may want to consider taking natural anti inflammatory drugs like devils claw.

Here is some advice on things you can do to help the healing process:

• Rest on your back with a pillow behind your knees to keep the hips and knees bent. If on your side, keep the pillow between your knees.

• During the day get up and walk every 30 minutes.

• If you cannot walk due to pain, try crawling on all fours until you loosen up.

• It is better to take a shower than to have a bath; you can use heat on muscles but avoid heating the spine.

• To help you get out of the bed; contract the stomach muscles and tense the buttock muscles, roll on to your side, bring your legs over the side and push yourself up into sitting, then try to stand up.

• Make an appointment with the chiropractor.

It is important to understand what made the disk wear out and more importantly than just alleviate the symptoms is to correct the cause.

Dr Sandra and Dr Christophe can be contacted at [email protected] or telephone 282 312 853, 969 397 375 or 913 696 370. Alternatively, visit the Algarve Quiroprática clinic at Quinta das Fontainhas along the EN125 in Pêra.