6 Signs that your low back pain is a disc herniation

Muscle Strain, Bulging Disc, or Disc Herniation

Are you experiencing low back pain and have wondered how I know if I have a bulging disc, herniated disc, or muscle strain. See the following signs and symptoms to help you understand your low back pain.

Muscle strain

  • Pain with movement only
  • Traumatic event prior to experiencing pain
  • Improves with moist heat
  • Improves with NSAIDS

Bulging Disc

  • Sharp or burning pain in the center of the back or just to the side of the spine
  • Pain is worse when sitting
  • Pain worse with forward bending movement in sitting or standing

Disc Herniation

  • Burning or sharp pain that goes into the buttock or leg down the back or front of the leg
  • Pain worse with sitting and standing
  • Pain worse with sneezing, coughing, or during bowel movement
  • Numbness in leg
  • Weakness in leg
  • Loss of bowel and bladder function

When should you seek immediate medical attention? This is a Medical Emergency go tho the ER

  • If you are experiencing loss of bowel and bladder function
  • Numbness in leg
  • Muscle weakness in the leg
  • Paralysis of muscles in the leg
  • numbness in both inner thigh region

Back Pain Statistics

If you are experiencing low back pain, you are not alone. According to Georgetown Unversity, 65 million Americans complain of experiencing low back pain in a year. Low back pain is the leading cause of missed work days and results in high medical costs. You can learn more at https://hpi.georgetown.edu/backpain/.

Who Can Treat Low Back Pain?

  • Physical Therapist
  • Chiropractors
  • Neurologist
  • Primary Care Doctors
  • ER for Emergencies

At Lifestyle Physical Therapy, Our Doctors of Physical Therapy are experienced and will evaluate you to see if physical therapy or seeing a neurologist is the best immediate treatment plan. Don’t suffer from back pain there is hope to return to an active Lifestyle without back pain.

To Set up an appointment text or call 803-831-1454. Tarsha and Sydnee are ready to take your call.

These tips are not to replace recommendations by your physical therapist or physician. Never start a new exercise routine without consulting your physician, physical therapist, or personal trainer. 

6 Ways to Manage Painful Trigger Points

What is a trigger point?

Travell and Simons defined a Trigger point as, a hyperirritable spot in the muscle belly that elicits a pain response somewhere else when compressed. Pressure on the trigger point can produce a muscle twitch as well.

All of us have trigger points throughout our bodies, but they are not painful. Life, toxins, and injury can result in exciting the trigger points. The trigger point can then create satellite trigger points; which can result in pain and muscle spasms.

Managing trigger points can improve the performance of the muscle and reduce overall pain in the body.

Self-manage trigger points in the following ways:

1. Self-trigger point release with:

  •   Tennis ball
  •   Lacrosse ball
  •   Spiny ball
  •   Theracane

2. Roll tissues after exercise and athletic performance with:

  •  Foam roller
  • Massage stick

3. Compression or vibration Therapy:

  • Hypervolt vibration tool
  • Minisphere vibration tool
  • Theragun

When self-treatment does not work it is time to seek professional help:

  1. Dry Needling – Physical Therapy
  2. Deep Tissue Massage – Massage Therapist
  3. Graston Technique or instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization – Physical Therapy

These tips are not to replace recommendations by your physical therapist or physician. This is for information only.  Never start a new self-treatment routine without consulting your physician or physical therapist.

Prehabilitation Physical Therapy improves recovery after surgery

What is Prehabilitation Physical Therapy?

Prehabilitation is seeing a physical therapist before surgery to improve the outcome of surgery.

Who should receive it?

If your surgery is postponed or you are scheduled for surgery, then Prehabilitation(Prehab) Physical therapy is right for you.  It can be frustrating to prepare for surgery, have a negative COVID test, and then be told your surgery is elective and is postponed. You don’t have to fret because you can take control of your situation and enter into Prehabilitation Physical Therapy to prepare for your upcoming surgery.

Does research support it?

The research is limited, but there is moderate evidence that a person receiving prehabilitation experiences a better surgical outcome. My 30 years of experience support that individuals receiving prehabilitation have less pain, experience faster strength gains, and return to life quicker after surgery. It really makes sense that when you are strong, properly nourished, have a positive outlook, and have good blood flow, the better your healing is going to be.

What type of treatment do you receive?

  • Pain management with modalities
  • Pain education to reduce Post Operative pain response
  • Graded Exercise to Strengthen weakened muscles or awaken Inhibited muscles.pr
  • Education in what to expect after surgery, so you can plan
  • Reduce soft tissue restrictions that are limiting movement and muscle activation
  • Increase endurance and fitness level
  • Train in how to use crutches, walkers, or wheelchairs
  • Education in Post-surgical precautions
  • Train family in how to assist you in your Home Exercise Program.

Why should I do Physical Therapy prior to my surgery?

Research has shown that Prehabilitation reduces your downtime after surgery and improves your response to surgery.

  • We can help you plan and find ways to reduce your pain with modalities and mindfulness to reduce your need for opiate medication.
  • Your muscles will become inhibited from the surgery and pain. Strengthening your muscles and activating muscles that are inhibited prior to surgery will reduce their inhibition after surgery.
  • Improving tolerance to movement and exercise prior to surgery will reduce downtime after surgery.
  • Learning your Home exercises prior to surgery will allow for better understanding and compliance with exercises after surgery. It is difficult to remember what you have been taught to do after surgery while you are medicated and recovering from anesthesia.
  • Prior to surgery, we can work with you to reduce soft tissue restrictions. After surgery, our focus is modeling where the scar tissue from surgery lays down, so it does not limit your motion. After surgery, the healing process limits us from reducing tissue restrictions close to the surgical site for 6 to 8 weeks. Waiting means more time in physical therapy, after your surgery.

Does Insurance cover it?


If your surgery has been postponed or you have an upcoming surgery take control of your rehabilitation and get started with Prehabilitation Physical Therapy. We are here to help you get back to life as quickly as possible. To learn more you can set up a free Discovery visit with Dr. Hartlage or Dr. Hixson. Call or text our offices at 803-831-1454 to schedule an appointment or free discovery visit. Simply comment below if you would like to further discuss Prehabilitation Physical Therapy or visit our website to start chatting.

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Wynter-Blyth, VenetiaMoorthy, Krishna.(Aug. 8 2017) Prehabilitation: preparing patients for surgery. BMJ : British Medical Journal (Online); London Vol. 358, 

 Giis C., Li C., Lee L., et al. (2014) Prehabilitation vs rehabilitation, a randomized control trial in patients undergoing colorectal resection for cancer. Anesthesiology. 2014; 121937-947

This Article is intended for education Purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or provide guidelines for treatment. Consult a physical therapist and a physician prior to starting any new exercise or rehabilitation program

Pain is a “pain in the butt!”

We have a guest blog post today written by Dr. Bennett Hixson. Dr. Hixson is a Doctor of physical Therapy at Lifestyle PT and he introduces you to where pain comes from and how to treat it without medication, surgery, or injections. I hope you enjoy. Karen S Shuler PT, DPT

Where Does Pain Come From?

Pain is a “pain in the butt”, but what if I told you it was a pain in your brain? The brain plays a large role in the severity of pain. When dealing with pain the brain seeks a way to protect the body; like a mother would their child. When the brain chooses to protect the body, it increases the sensitivity of the overall nervous system which brings us to a “fight or flight” response. During the fight or flight response the brain increases how sensitive the body is, to gather as much information as possible, to protect against threats. Due to this “perceived threat”, the nervous system is so sensitive that otherwise normal body experiences are amplified and result in pain. Light, Noises, and light touch can now be perceived as a threat and produce a pain response.   This can happen due to a normal response to injury, but once that pain or injury becomes chronic, our nervous system continues to stay overly sensitive. The body keeps itself in this “fight or flight” mode and it begins to build anxiety and stress because our brain is constantly in fear of pain and is attempting to avoid these threats.

You may be thinking how does one correct this? Well, many people use pain medications whether it be over the counter or prescription, but here at Lifestyle Physical Therapy we utilize Alpha-Stim as a non-pharmaceutical based pain management option in conjunction with exercise to re-teach the brain what pain free movement is.

Alpha-Stim: How does it work?

The Alpha-Stim Aid is Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation (CES) that emits a current to the brain that reduces the sensitivity of the nervous system. (Sounds scary but we simply place clips along the earlobes to emit the current and it is pain free). The body has multiple frequencies it operates on with fight or flight being the peak. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Delta, or deep sleep (where the body performs a significant amount of healing) Right in between those two frequencies we have Alpha, which should be our baseline operating frequency.  This is the frequency targeted via Alpha-Stim. By sending this current to the brain we are assisting the brain to communicate with the rest of the body to relax and thus the body exits the fight or flight response.

Some patients can feel an instant reduction or relief to their pain while others may take more time to get their body on board with changing the body’s definition of “normal.” Many times, the immediate effect depends on the duration and severity of pain. In regard to joint or body part specific pain, Alpha-Stim also offers the Alpha-Stim M which comes with smart probes and AS trodes that can be attached directly to the site of pain. This allows the unit to provide Microcurrent Electrical Therapy (MET) to the affected nerve endings that are sending pain sensations to the brain.

How does Lifestyle PT utilize Alpha-Stim?

At Lifestyle PT we utilize both CES and MET in conjunction with therapy to get you back to life! We offer the ability to purchase or rent both Alpha-Stim Models: Model Aid and Model M; which includes education and learning on how to use the device on your own. A home unit can be helpful for upcoming surgeries, to accelerate healing and reduce post-surgical pain response.  The Alpha Stim AID; which offers CES only, is cleared by the FDA for treatment of anxiety, depression and insomnia.  The Alpha Stim M; which offers MET in addition to CES is FDA cleared for relief from acute pain, chronic pain, insomnia, anxiety, and depression.  

We do offer a 2 week free trial of Alpha-Stim, in the clinic, to determine if you will respond well to this type of treatment. If you have any questions or would like to set up an appointment, call or text our offices at 803-831-1454. Lifestyle Physical Therapy’s Doctors of Physical Therapy are ready to help you get back to doing the things you love with less pain and without medication, injections, or surgery.

For more information and to review the research behind Alpha-Stime you can visit www.alpha-stim.com

Bennett Hixson DPT
Physical Therapist at Lifestyle Physical Therapy

This Article is intended for education Purposes only. Never start an exercise program without first consulting your physician or Physical Therapist. Never Go against the medical advice of your physician, physical therapist, or healthcare provider. If you are not cleared for exercise, you need an evaluation from a physical therapist to determine the safest way to begin an exercise program.