The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

The Cause of Disc and Back Pain

A UK Times article featured a physician musing that as medical students they were not taught in school to identify the cause of medical problems, but to treat symptoms (and give electric shocks to decerebrate frogs). The cause of the problem would still remain.

He mentioned how you may go to the doctor with painful tonsils, and be given a "diagnosis" of tonsillitis. He educates the reader that "Tonsillitis, for example, is not a disease but a symptom - of something else that caused the tonsils to be infected." He continued with how you may go to the doctor with pain down your leg, and be given back a "diagnosis" of sciatica, which just means "pain down the leg" but not what is causing the sciatica. A disc may be pressing on the nerve, but what is making the disc press? The sciatica and the bad disc are the symptoms. They are not the cause. Unfortunately, he stopped there, and for treatment said to go back to your activities with light rest. Nothing about what caused the disc to degenerate (break down) or protrude (herniate or slip) in the first place.

Understand The Causes:

  1. Bad sitting and bending are main causes of disc degeneration and herniation.
  2. Rounded sitting (photo on left) compresses the space between vertebrae in front and opens the space between them in back and squeezes the disc gradually backward into that space.
  3. Bad bending (right) levers the weight of your upper body plus whatever you are lifting onto your lower back discs, whether you keep your back straight or rounded.

Strengthening your back will not stop you from sitting and bending wrong. Stretches or massage that feel good for the moment will not stop you from sitting and bending in the way that rounds the spine forward, pushing and squeezing the discs until, finally, give break down and squeeze out to the back (herniate).  

A bad disc is not the diagnosis. It is not the cause of the problem. It is the result of what is causing the disc go bad.

You can treat the disc pain with pills, exercises, massage, and shots, but not remove the cause. When you continue the cause, the pain often comes back. You can undergo surgery to remove the disc, but of you do not remove the cause and continue injurious sitting, lifting, and bending, you continue harming your other discs.

What to Do:

It is easy to prevent and heal back pain when you simply stop the cause.


There is more help and information in my replies to many reader comments right under this post. Before asking more questions, see if your answers are already here.

Photos: Thanks to HealthLine staff who posed pretending to sit and bend wrong to help others.
No readers were hurt in the photographing of this post.

Drawings of Backman!™ © copyright Dr. Jolie Bookspan


Read and contribute your own success stories of fixing pain with these methods. Before asking questions, see if your answers are already here - click labels under posts, links in posts, archives at right, and the Fitness Fixer Index. For answers to personal medical questions - Replies to Medical Questions.
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About the Author


Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.