CONSTIPATION LEADS TO HERNIATED LUMBAR DISC?
Many office workers and students who are mostly sedentary and lack bodily movement complain of constipation. Additionally, many patients attending the main clinic with herniated lumbar disc also complain of constipation. Constipation is not simply a digestive issue. It can lead to lumbar pain and can strain the spine; therefore, constipation is like a red alert for herniated lumbar disc patients.
Even if a healthy person flexes the abdomen, not much strain is forced on the disc because of strong abdominal muscles and erector spine muscles. However, women in their twenty to thirties whose muscles became weak due to excessive work out, or those with spinal disorder or lumbar pain from stress and wrong posture may trigger herniated lumbar disc, where there is pinching of the nerve by deviated lumbar vertebra and disc, because of sudden increase of abdominal pressure when pushing to relieve of constipation.
Compression of the lumbar vertebra or nerve, or damage of the tendons or ligaments due to constipation can worsen defecation and urination difficulty, leading to the vicious cycle where the spine becomes worse. The perineal nerve running through the sacrum controls the external sphincter and accelerates bowel movement, so any problems in this area can give rise to difficulty in defecation.
Depending on which nerve is getting compressed due to spinal disorder, it can affect defecation and urination. In certain cases where patients have limited movement because of lumbar disc hernia, their stiff bowel movement and weakened abdomen muscles can aggravate lumbar disc. Therefore, those with chronically weak low back or those diagnosed with lumbar disc hernia need to be aware of not only the spine but as well as their digestive system.
According to a survey of 482 patients with lumbar disc hernia and lumbar sprain that have attended Jaseng Center from October 1st, 2014 to January 15th, 2015, nearly half, which are 237 patients (49.2%), said constipation followed by hernia of the lumbar disc. Additionally, out of those 237 patients with constipation after lumbar disc hernia, 88% (209 patients) claimed they sit in the bathroom for over fifteen minutes.
Prevention of constipation include proper dietary habits and bowel habits. Avoid oily food or straight meaty food, but eat fiber and moisture-rich food. Extended time in the bathroom with books, newspaper, or phone is not recommended; rather, it is recommended to finish within five minutes.
Strengthening of the abdominal and erector spine muscles with exercise can solve two problems at once. Abdominal exercise not only helps improve bowel movement, but the strong abdominal muscle can withstand sudden abdominal pressure exerted during constipation, and can prevent lumbar disc hernia by supporting the spine and disc strongly.
The following are exercises for the abdomen and erector spinal muscle:
1. Leg Raise Exercise: Lie down supine, and slowly raise and lower both legs. Repeat fifteen times, rest for one minute, and do three sets in total.
2. Sit up: Raise the body up to chest-height only, not completely.
3. Riding the bicycle and walking are workouts that strengthen the abdomens without straining the low back.
Rarely people consider constipation as a serious symptom. Lumbar pain due to temporary constipation can be relieved once constipation is resolved; however, chronic constipation can develop into intestinal blockage, anal fissure, or hemorrhoids. In worse cases, it can lead to lumbar disc hernia or degenerative spinal disorder, so continuous symptoms call for proper treatments.
Published by KoreaTimes under <Health Column> on April 21st, 2015.