Your spine is made up of bones called vertebrae. Between each of the vertebrae, there are flexible, shock-absorbing discs that allow you to bend and twist. Each of your spinal discs is a biscuit-shaped cushion with a hard outer skin called the annulus and a jelly-like center called the nucleus.
What is a Herniated Disc?
You have undoubtedly heard someone say they have a, “slipped disc.” This is a little misleading because your spinal discs are not able to slip out of place. In fact, in a healthy spine the discs are actually stronger than the vertebrae. As we age, our spinal discs undergo wear and tear from the stress of repeated twisting, lifting, bending, and prolonged sitting. The wear and tear on the disc’s annulus can allow the disc’s inner nucleus to, “leak,” out. When this occurs, a disc has herniated.
Sometimes the leaked nucleus can cause an inflammatory response and put pressure on the spinal nerve that runs alongside the disc. If a disc is affected in the neck, this can result in arm pain. If a disc in the lower back is affected, often affecting the sciatic nerve, this can cause leg pain.
Are Herniated Discs a Common Problem?
The term “slipped disc,” is often utilized as a diagnostic term for back pain though herniated discs aren’t a common problem. Specifically, the most common cause of sciatica is referred pain from the muscles, ligaments, and joints in the spine, not a herniated disc. Approximately three to five percent of patients who consult a doctor regarding lower back pain are diagnosed with a herniated disc. Herniated discs are most commonly seen in patients 30 to 50 years old. The incidence of herniated discs in the general population of adults 24 to 64 years old is only 0.1 to 0.5%.
Risks of Developing a Herniated Disc
There are several risk factors for developing herniated discs. If you have had episodes of back pain in the past, do a job that requires a lot of bending and heavy lifting, smoke, or have an occupation that requires you to drive a lot, you are at risk of developing a herniated disc. Poor core stability and being out of shape also put you at higher risk for developing a herniated disc.
Herniated Disc Prevention
There are some things you can do to help prevent disc herniation. Try to avoid prolonged sitting or repeated twisting, bending, lifting, or carrying. When you need to do manual labor, wear a protective belt. When possible, avoid prolonged driving. Building strong core muscles and using proper posture when you’re sitting, driving, and lifting will also help you protect yourself from disc herniation.
Chiropractic Care for Herniated Discs
There are certainly some cases of herniated discs that warrant surgery, especially if bladder or bowel functions are affected. Fortunately, most herniated disc cases do not require surgical treatment; however, if you experience numbness in the, “saddle,” area or changes in your bowel or bladder function, seek immediate medical treatment, as these symptoms can indicate you have a serious condition called cauda equina syndrome. This condition can be reversed with prompt treatment.
Many patients find relief from chiropractic care for disc herniation. Research indicates chiropractic care is more effective than postural education, heat, conventional physiotherapy, and exercise for treating herniated discs.
Your chiropractor will take a medical history and perform a physical examination at your initial appointment. He/she will come up with an individualized treatment plan for your specific condition. This treatment plan may include spinal manipulation (also known as spinal adjustments), therapeutic exercise, and manual therapy.
If you are experiencing back pain, please give us a call at The Spine and Wellness Centers to set up an initial consultation. At your consultation, you can discuss your concerns and get your questions answered by one of our chiropractors.