Push it real good: A guide to understanding disc pain in the lower back

There you are, minding your own business living your best life, when out of nowhere you suddenly have back pain or pain in your leg. It could have jumped on you when you woke up, or when you got up out of bed, or when you bent to grab a shoe off the floor. It could have started with something as simple as sneezing, or as complex as catching a heavy squat clean slightly off center. Regardless of the mechanism, lower back or leg pain that is brought on suddenly is most often caused by a change in the behavior of an intervertebral disc.


So before we dive into disc talk, let’s again think about the following questions:

-Does it feel the same every time I do a certain activity?

-Has it been moving higher or lower in the leg quickly (within a matter of hours or days)?

-Is there numbness or tingling associated with it?


Disc related lower back and leg pain typically behaves in the following ways:

-The pain can differ in intensity and location when doing certain activities

-The problem gets better or worse, or moves up or down the leg, within hours or days

-Numbness and tingling is less common with this problem.

The disc that i keep referring to is a spongy gel filled structure (the blue stuff above) that is sandwiched in between each vertebra, or bones in your spine. It acts a lot like a shock absorber that helps to transfer force through the middle of your body, preventing all manner of important structures from being stressed. Many people when thinking they have this problem think that it’s a permanent one, that their disc “slips” and is an unchanging burden for the rest of their life. Although yes, our body changes as we age, the way our body adapts to these changes is important, and structure is not something we should focus on so heavily.

We can’t change structure, but we can change function and improve.

A better perspective of how we can improve a disc is thinking about squeezing a balloon. As shown in the picture, air has to push away from the force that we apply on it. The discs in our back behave the same way. Take sitting for example, if we sit in one particular way all the time (you might even be slouching in a chair right now as you read this) we are applying a specific kind of load into our disc. Let’s say that we do this for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, for years on end, and over time this tissue can get worn out.

The wonderful thing about human resilience is that this is a changeable pattern. If we can be taught ways to “squeeze the balloon” in directions that oppose the pattern that upset it in the first place, we can create long lasting change and get our body out of pain.

is very common and very treatable. At our office we help evaluate and provide the best strategies to help the disc to adapt and function normally again. If you or someone you know might be dealing with this issue, we would be happy to help!


If you have questions or comments, feel free to reach out to us at MHCWNY@gmail.com or leave us a comment below! Making an appointment is done easily through this website, or by calling at 585-445-8584.

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