Herniated Disc (Slipped Disc)

What are herniated discs?

Separating the 24 vertebrae of your spin are cartilage pads called discs. These discs are comprised of a soft interior, which is surrounded by a fairly tough outer layer. Their purpose is to cushion the strains and shocks and various stress placed on the spine in daily movement. However, these discs are subject to disease, injury, and degeneration over time. Also, certain types of work or activities are at greater risk of damaging the disc. A herniated disc is when the soft material in the center of the disc pushes out through a tear in the outer layer.

Other terms for herniated disc are slipped, prolapsed, ruptured, bulging, or degenerated discs. There are distinctions between these terms, but they all refer to a disc that has been damaged or not healthy. Herniated discs can produce pain by impinging (pinching or irritating) and injuring the nerves from the spine.
Typical symptoms of a herniated disc.

The two most common areas of disc herniation are the lower back (L5-S1) and the neck (C5-C6). The lumbar disc herniation can cause pain is known as sciatica: pain that shoots through the buttocks into the thigh and down the back of the leg. Disc herniation in the cervical area can send pain into the shoulder, arm, and down to the hand. Both can cause muscle weakness, make it hard to get up from sitting or lying down, produce pain when sneezing or coughing. Sometimes there is a pain in the lower right abdomen. One symptom that is a concern for immediate medical attention is incontinence: herniated discs can affect the nerves to the bowel or bladder causing them to not function correctly.

When to see a Doctor of Chiropractic

As with most health problems, the most conservative approach should be attempted first. Only after a fair opportunity and there are no results, should you seek more invasive treatments. Without a doubt, chiropractic care is the most conservative and safest approach available. Regarding musculoskeletal conditions, like herniated discs, Doctors of Chiropractic are experts in conservative care. Chiropractic care should be your first choice.

What can chiropractic do?

Both healthcare professionals and the public agree that conservative treatment of herniated disc should be the initial step. Only a small minority require costly and traumatic treatment like surgery and hospitalization: or those with side effects like opioid analgesics and muscle relaxers.

A Doctor of Chiropractic will conduct a thorough history and conduct the appropriate diagnostic testing. They will determine what part of the spine has lost its function, producing the pain as they focus on the exact symptoms experienced. Doctors of Chiropractic have the techniques, training, and experience to effectively and safely adjust the spine, reducing the stress on the disc and relieving the pain. This also allows the damaged or displaced structures to heal and allow a return to normal functioning.

Do chiropractors “cure” herniated discs?
Is surgery the only complete correction?

There are many factors to determine before answering these questions. Things like the severity and location, the patient’s age, and general health condition necessary to understand. In any case, chiropractic care has been proven to provide exceptional results in the management of herniated discs. The current research published in peer reviewed index medical journals concludes that chiropractic care has an effective rate of 94.2% – extremely effective! Also, research involving MRI studies before and after chiropractic care revealed a 63% reduction or completely absorbed disc herniation.

When to see a surgeon.

The last option for treating a disc herniation is surgery. Only after all other treatments such as chiropractic, physical therapy, massage therapy, and medication should you see a surgeon. If surgery is necessary, a neurosurgeon should be your choice: they spend the majority of their care on that part of the body and are more experienced. However, most surgeons will not consider operating unless other treatments like chiropractic and physical therapy have been attempted first.

Spinal Anatomy

Regarding its structure, the spine is extremely complex, consisting of many parts including 24 vertebrae, the brain stem, spinal cord, 62 spinal nerves, peripheral nerves, nine common ligaments, multiple muscle layers, fascia, lymph vessels, blood vessels and adipose tissue. The 24 vertebrae are divided into three sections: 7 neck (cervical), 12 mid-back (thoracic), and 5 low back (lumbar).

Separating the vertebrae in the intervertebral disc. The disc is comprised mostly of water and has a limited direct blood supply. The disc’s source of hydration and nourishment is from motion: during exercise, oxygen, nutrients, and fluids are delivered to the disc. People who live a sedentary lifestyle are at a greater risk of early disc degeneration.

There are two parts of the intervertebral disc: the outer “annulus fibrosus” and the inner “nucleus pulposus.” The outer “annulus” is a tough ligamentous material and looks like concentric rings; much like the growth rings of a tree or the layers of an onion. The inner “nucleus” is soft and can be likened to the center of a jelly donut.