The term ‘disc’ is short for the ‘intervertebral discs’, the spongy cushions that separate the bones (vertebrae) of the spine. These discs have a number of important functions including shock absorption, keeping the vertebral column stable and giving the vertebrae ‘pivot points’ to allow movement.
A disc is made of two parts: the elastic outer shell and the jelly-like contents. These discs can handle quite a lot of pressure without damage. A “bulging disc” or a “disc bulge” is where excessive pressure causes damage to the discs outer shell and the jelly-like contents start to press up against it. This can lead to generalised pain in the area of the bulge and in some cases compression of nerves and referred pain where the specific nerve travel.
Our backs have a natural curvature that helps prevent excessive pressure being placed on our discs. At the lower back the spine naturally curves inwards. Most cases of lower back disc pain are caused by poor postures when we allow our spine to curve in the opposite direction or “round out” placing excessive pressure on the discs and subsequent “bulging”.
In most cases, short intermittent periods of allowing the lumbar spine to round out will not cause any issues. However, when these poor postures are sustained, for example with prolonged sitting, the jelly like contents gradually start to push up against the elastic outer shell and cause pain.
Try these 2 simple tips to avoid lower back pain when sitting:
* Hips slightly above level of knees / Back against back rest
* Place a rolled up towel/support between your lower back and the chair to maintain the natural inward curvature.