What is a Herniated Disc?
The bones in the spinal column called vertebrae surround the spinal cord and other nerves and are cushioned by soft intervertebral discs that act as shock absorbers for the spine. The intervertebral discs are composed of a jelly-like nucleus pulposus at the center, surrounded by a fibrous ring called the annulus fibrosus. A herniated disc is a condition in which the outer fibrous annulus of the intervertebral disc is damaged, causing the nucleus to protrude through the ruptured annulus and compress the adjacent nerve root and/or spinal canal. A herniated disc is also known as a slipped disc or a ruptured disc. Wear and tear due to aging, repetitive strenuous movements, smoking, improper lifting, and being overweight may alter the structure and function of these discs.
What are the Symptoms of a Herniated Disc?
The predominant symptom of a herniated disc is pain, which can range from mild to severe and is usually aggravated by movement. The most common signs and symptoms of a herniated disc are as follows:
- Herniated disc in the lower back causes back pain that radiates to the buttocks and legs.
- Herniated disc in the neck causes neck pain that radiates to the shoulders and upper arms.
- Numbness or tingling sensation
- Muscle weakness
- Occasionally, bowel and bladder dysfunction
How is a Herniated Disc Diagnosed?
An accurate diagnosis and an effective treatment plan are important for a successful outcome. A herniated disc is diagnosed based on your symptoms and a physical examination, where your sensations, reflexes, and the strength of the muscles are evaluated. Imaging tests may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis of a herniated disc.
Treatment for Herniated Disc
Chiropractic care offers a non-invasive alternative to surgery for some individuals with herniated discs. It focuses on improving the body's natural healing abilities without resorting to more aggressive treatments. Chiropractors typically use manual manipulation to address herniated discs.
The goals of chiropractic treatment for herniated discs include:
Spinal Adjustments: Spinal adjustments may be performed to realign the spine and reduce pressure on the affected disc. This can potentially alleviate pain and discomfort associated with the herniated disc.
Pain Management: Pain management is achieved through techniques that may include spinal manipulation, soft tissue therapies, and therapeutic exercises. These approaches aim to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain associated with the herniation.
Improved Function: Chiropractors focus on improving the functionality of the spine and surrounding musculature, which can help provide stability and support to the injured area.
It is crucial to consult with a healthcare provider before pursuing chiropractic care for a herniated disc to ensure that it is a safe and appropriate option for your specific condition. In some cases, a multidisciplinary approach involving other healthcare professionals, such as a physical therapist or orthopedic spine specialist may be recommended.