Updated: Apr 21
By Cybil Kendrick Marks, L.Ac.,MSOM, C.SMA, RMT
Often with the diagnosis of a disc herniation our first thought is that surgery is our only option but depending on the severity of the herniation there are less invasive modalities that can help tremendously with the pain and heal the disc itself. But let’s start with considering why the herniation may have occurred in the first place. Trauma is often a cause but more often than not it has an insidious onset from years of poor posture, muscle imbalances, compensations from past injuries etc. All of these, compounded with age set us up for a sudden injury from lifting something improperly or even sneezing. If we spend most of our day sitting at a computer both our lumbar vertebrae and our cervical vertebrae are placed under a lot of stress. Over time, a head-forward posture and pelvic rotations can occur also placing stress on the spine and the discs. Most of us also have handheld devices which are even worse for our spine as we never sit properly so that we are using them in the most ergonomic way. One of the easiest tools we have to combat this is being conscious of our postures throughout the day, please see “improving your function (and comfort) at work” in our blog section under wellness for more specific information on how to set up your work space. Acupuncture, physical therapy, Pilates, yoga are great options for activating under active muscles that are not supporting your spine and relaxing over active muscles that are pulling excessively.
Acupuncture can be a very effective modality for reducing pain by treating the affected channel and organ pathology, moving Qi and blood and relaxing the musculature. Where Sports Medicine Acupuncture® differs is that it incorporates the theories of Traditional Chinese Medicine with Western Sports Medicine modalities to identify the source of the pain and to create a complete treatment plan. Postural analysis, functional anatomy, manual muscle tests and orthopedic tests can help lead the practitioner to the major imbalances in the structure that are leading to the pressures on the discs. We use all of this information to target muscle imbalances that are creating undue pressure on the discs. Like a plant that isn’t watered, everything begins to shrivel or tighten downstream of a nerve that is being compressed so we treat locally, affecting the musculature right next to the spine, to distally affecting the musculature that has reduced nervous information to open communication from the central nervous system to the peripheral nervous system.
You don’t have to wait until you have a known disc bulge or herniation to seek out treatment, many of us have nagging areas of our bodies that are always tight and achy despite all the stretching we do. As we age it is assumed that we have some disc degeneration and often times those nagging issues are signs that there may be reduced disc height and thus reduced nerve conduction. As my mentor, Matt Callison, puts it best “it’s like a hose that has water running through it. If you step on it lightly you won’t notice that the output is reduced, if you step on it completely it is obvious that there is an issue.” Don’t wait until it is a life interrupting, excruciating situation, take care of yourself on a regular basis with exercise, stretching, chiropractic, acupuncture, massage, meditation, etc.
Cybil Kendrick, L.Ac.,MSOM, C.SMA, RMT is a licensed acupuncturist (L.Ac.) with her masters in Oriental medicine (MSOM) and is certified in Sports Medicine Acupuncture® (C.SMA) and massage therapy (RMT)