A disc lives in between each vertebra of your spine, providing cushioning, stability, and movement to the whole spinal column. If a disc begins to wear or die, however, it is at risk of losing its shape and slipping out of position. If a portion of the disc moves out of position, it can press on other nearby structures (a condition called herniation, bulging disc, slipped disc, or prolapsed disc).
Although as many as two-thirds of all disc herniations are symptom-free, there are several sensitive nervous system structures which can be impacted by a slipped disc. The spinal cord itself (seen on this MRI as a dark gray shadow running down the white spinal canal) can be pressed upon by a slipped disc. So too, the many thick nerve bundles which exit the spinal cord and communicate with all the organs of your body and limbs.
When nerves are directly pressed, they lose the ability to communicate effectively, causing many possible symptoms, including pain, burning, numbness, muscle weakness, sciatica, and organ dysfunction. Many of the possible symptoms depend on the location of the disc: if it occurs in the neck it can cause neck pain, headaches, numbness or tingling or burning of one or both arms, and more; if it occurs in the mid-back it can cause organ dysfunction, back pain, acid reflux, and more; if it occurs in the low back it can cause low back pain, leg pain, sciatica, difficulty with urination or bowel movements, and more.
How We Can Help Your Disc Herniation
There are many possible treatments for a disc problem. Our chiropractic thought process is very simple, however: what is the simplest, least invasive way to ease your symptoms and restore health to your nervous system and disc?
Another way to say this: is a conservative course of treatment appropriate for a disc problem? A recent study in Spine Journal emphatically states that based on cost and the likelihood of recovery, "given that many patients will improve with nonoperative therapy, a trial of conservative management is appropriate."
Conservative management for a disc herniation at Johnson Family Chiropractic consists of the gentle chiropractic adjustment, axial spinal decompression therapy, ice, rehabilitative exercises, anti-inflammatory measures, and other therapies if needed.
The chiropractic adjustment alone has been shown in studies to be as effective as back surgery for 60% of patients who had not responded to other medical interventions. Some published cases where disc herniation patients have been successfully treated with the Activator Methods chiropractic technique can be found here and here. The chiropractic adjustment is safe and effective in the presence of a disc herniation, and works by restoring proper motion to the disc-vertebra motion unit.
Spinal decompression is a nonsurgical treatment that gently pulls the vertebra apart, creating a vacuum inside the disc which, after several treatments, is designed to gradually bring the disc back into place. This therapy directly removes the pressure put on nerves, and can therefore help to relieve symptoms.
Ask Dr. Johnson today if the gentle, noninvasive treatments available at Johnson Family Chiropractic can help your disc herniation.