What is the difference between a bulging disc and a ruptured disc?
A “bulging disc” is caused when repeated stress on a vertebral disc causes it to dry out and degenerate. As this disc wears out, the center of the disc begins to bulge through the weakened membrane putting pressure on the nerve thereby causing pain. A “ruptured disc” is caused by the mechanism described above except that a sudden movement has caused the center of the disc to completely break through the weakened membrane and leak out into the surrounding tissue. This, again, will irritate the nerve.
A friend of mine was diagnosed with spondylolisthesis. What is that?
Spondylolisthesis is the result of either repeated extension movements of the back, congential changes, or trauma that may cause vertebrae to slip back and forth and sometimes even crack (causing a stress fracture). A disc that is put under this kind of stress can put pressure on nearby nerves causing irritation. This will undoubtedly cause pain.
Is good posture really that important?
A healthy spine is made of bony vertebrae and cushioning pads of cartilage (discs) that are arranged into three naturally occurring curves that form an S-shape. When properly aligned as in good posture, these natural curves keep your body balanced and support you when you move. They also distribute your weight evenly throughout your spine, thereby making back injuries less likely.
Can regular exercise, other than exercise design specifically for my back, help take the stress off my spine?
Strong, flexible muscles help maintain your three natural curves by holding your vertebrae and discs in proper alignment. If your abdominal, hip, thigh, and other muscles are strong and flexible, they can do the vast majority of the work involving movement, therefore alleviating the strain from your back.
If I am targeting back muscles in my regular workout, what, besides strengthening, am I accomplishing?
Regular back exercise helps keep your spine and discs nourished and healthy by increasing direct blood flow which will lead to pain relief and injury prevention. With this in mind, it is extremely important to stop any exercise that causes new or unusual pain. If this happens, which unfortunately sometimes does, consult your orthopedic physician.