Pressure Between two Discs
The Rolfing Treatment Method can assist people suffering from a slipped disc to reach structural balance of the body and to prevent disc herniation.
Is it recommended to perform physical activity whilst suffering from a herniated disc or a slipped disc? The answer to these questions begins with a differentiation between a slipped disc and a disc herniation and diagnosing each.
Between every two vertebrae in one’s back, is a disc, whose function is to absorb shocks that could harm the vertebrae. The disc is made of a relatively hardened exterior and a gelatinous soft core. This exterior causes the softening and shock absorption.
A herniated disc means a crack in the disc’s shell and a leakage of some of the gelatinous fluid. When this happens, the “spilt” substance may apply pressure to a nerve or cause an inflammation. In both cases, pain ensues.
Sometimes a preliminary stage occurs, when despite the eruption the gelatinous material that leaks out and has started to put pressure on the nerve, is still attached to the gelatin inside the disc. With the correct procedure, it can be caused to go back into the disc. At other times, the gelatin separates completely from the internal part of the disc and it cannot be put back into place nor its movements predicted.
And what is a slipped disc?
The general definition of a slipped disc is when there is no eruption of the disc, but there is movement, so that it ceases to be in its correct place between the vertebrae and it slides sideways (it partially protrudes beyond the limits of the vertebrae). Naturally, in this case there is also a risk of pressure of the protruding area on a nerve that could result in inflammation. Needless to say, also in the case of a protrusion one feels pain.
What are the customary treatments for disc herniation/a slipped disc?
In the case of full blown disc eruption, there is a mechanical problem to administer treatment because we do not know exactly where the disconnected gel is to be found, and so we do not know which action will increase the pressure on the nerve and which will do the opposite. This stage is the least pleasant of the eruption and there is little left to do to fix it. The only thing relevant at this stage is giving some relief from the pain with the aide of pain killers and anti-inflammatories (either pills or injections) and to wait until the gel is at least partially absorbed and ceases to put pressure on the nerve. Once that relief has happened, treatment can begin. This stage is in fact similar to the situation where the problem is defined as a slipped disc.
Treatment in the case of a slipped disc is divided into two:
1. Creating structural balance so as to cause the protrusion to return back to its natural place and stop putting pressure on the nerve.
2. Strengthening the muscles so as to lessen the pressure on the disc and thus prevent more gel erupting from it outside of the disc’s hard shell.
The structural balance can be reached with Rolfing. In this treatment method the shortening of the muscles and ligaments are “opened” to reach structural balance of the body.
The shortening of the muscles is a result of the fascia which wraps the muscles, sticks to itself and thereby shortens. The fascia is a thin transparent membrane.
Why do these adhesions happen? Because subject to our movement patterns, we operate the muscles mainly in one way and do not use them in the opposite manner as well. For instance, keeping the shoulder permanently held up without lowering them. Such a stance will not create a disc eruption, but long hours sitting in front of the computer leaning to one side of the chair so that the body is pressed only to that side, could bring about such a condition. The habit of sitting in that way can cause problems in the vertebrae that may result in an erupted disc.
Pressure in place of stretching
Opening the adhesions of the Fascia cannot be done by way of stretching the muscle. The reason for this is because the stretch cannot penetrate the thick area that the conglutinations cause. This is why we must turn to Rolfing that uses accurate pressure instead of stretching on the thickened area that was created. The pressure raises the temperature of the treated area and dissolves and flattens the thickened place until it reaches the original thickness of the membrane. This action extends the shortened muscle and restores structural balance.
Rolfing is not a one-time-fixes-all method of treatment. It is based on the series of integrated structural treatments created by Ida Rolf. It is thorough, consistent, continuous and above all, gradual – over the entire body’s muscle system.
Usually, at the end of the treatment series I give a special lesson in practicing and maintaining the structural balance so as to prevent a relapse. For those interested, this lesson has been turned into a DVD which can be used for help at any time.
And regarding the question which started this post, it is noteworthy to remember that Rolfing aims to reach bodily structural balance which eventually brings about an elongation of the muscles and not shortening them further. This is especially important to those who participated in movement lessons such as Pilates, Yoga or Feldenkrais before beginning to work with Rolfing. These lessons are excellent and I wholeheartedly recommend going back to them after the series is completed. Why only after the series is completed? Because in an acute condition of disc herniation or slipped disc, when the case is obviously one of structural imbalance, exercising in a large group may not help and there is need of personal and individual work as in Rolfing.
More about Rolfing can be found here