Disc Herniation

Disc herniation occurs when the sponge-like discs between the vertebrae in the spine become damaged or ruptured, causing the inner gel-like material to leak out.

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Disc Herniation
Disc Herniation
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Your Guide to Understanding Disc Herniation

What is Disc Herniation?

Disc herniation, also known as a herniated disc or slipped disc, refers to a condition where the soft, jelly-like material inside the discs between the vertebrae in the spine protrudes or leaks out through a tear or rupture in the outer layer of the disc. These discs act as shock absorbers and provide cushioning for the spine. When a disc herniates, it can cause various symptoms and discomfort.

The most common cause of disc herniation is age-related degeneration of the discs. As we age, the discs lose their water content, making them less flexible and more prone to injury. However, disc herniation can also occur due to trauma, such as lifting heavy objects with improper technique or experiencing a sudden impact to the spine.

How can Chiropractic help treat Disc Herniation?

Chiropractic services play a significant role in alleviating the symptoms of disc herniation. Chiropractors use a holistic approach to address the underlying causes and provide relief. Through gentle spinal adjustments, chiropractors help realign the spine and reduce pressure on the affected disc, which can alleviate pain, numbness, and tingling.

Additionally, chiropractors may utilize other techniques such as spinal decompression therapy or traction to create space between the vertebrae and promote healing of the herniated disc. They may also incorporate rehabilitative exercises and stretches to strengthen the surrounding muscles and improve overall spinal stability. By addressing the root cause and providing non-invasive treatments, chiropractic services can be an effective option for individuals with disc herniation.

What causes Disc Herniation?

Disc herniation is usually caused by a combination of factors, with age-related wear and tear being the most common cause. As we get older, the discs in our spine gradually lose water content and become less flexible. This makes them more prone to injury and can lead to disc herniation.

In addition to natural aging, certain activities or behaviors can increase the risk of disc herniation. Lifting heavy objects with improper technique, especially when combined with twisting or bending motions, can put excessive strain on the discs and potentially cause them to herniate.

Sudden traumatic events, such as a fall or an accident, can also result in disc herniation. The impact from these incidents can cause the disc material to rupture or protrude, leading to compression of the nearby nerves.

What treatments might help Disc Herniation?

The treatment for disc herniation aims to alleviate pain, reduce inflammation, and promote healing. Here are some common treatment options that can help improve disc herniation:

  • Rest and Activity Modification: Resting for a short period, typically one to two days, can help relieve back and leg pain. However, prolonged bed rest is not recommended. Engaging in gentle activities and modifying your movements to avoid exacerbating the symptoms is important.
  • Heat or Cold Therapy: Applying heat or cold packs can provide relief by reducing pain and swelling. Cold packs are generally recommended initially, while heat may be beneficial later on.
  • Pain Medication: Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen can help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation associated with disc herniation. Consult with a healthcare professional before taking any medication.
  • Physical Therapy: A structured physical therapy program can strengthen the muscles supporting the spine, improve flexibility, and alleviate pressure on the affected area. Physical therapists may use a combination of exercises, stretches, manual therapy, and other techniques.
  • Steroid Injections: In some cases, steroid medications can be injected into the area around the herniated disc to reduce inflammation and provide pain relief. These injections are typically performed by a healthcare professional.
  • Spinal Decompression Therapy: Spinal decompression is a non-surgical treatment option that aims to relieve pressure on the affected nerve root. This therapy involves gently stretching the spine to create negative pressure, which can help retract the herniated disc material and promote healing.

Signs of Disc Herniation:

Disc herniation can cause various symptoms, which can vary depending on the location and severity of the herniated disc. Some common signs of disc herniation include:

  • Back or Neck Pain: You may experience localized pain in the lower back (if the herniation is in the lumbar spine) or in the neck (if it is in the cervical spine). The pain may be sharp, shooting, or aching.
  • Radiating Pain: One of the hallmark signs of disc herniation is radiating pain that travels along the path of the affected nerve. For example, if the herniation is in the lower back, you may feel pain radiating down the leg (sciatica), while in the neck, it can radiate to the arm or shoulder.
  • Numbness and Tingling: Disc herniation can compress nerves, leading to sensations of numbness, tingling, or a "pins and needles" feeling in the affected area.
  • Muscle Weakness: If the herniated disc is pressing on a nerve that controls muscle function, it can result in weakness in certain muscles. This weakness may affect your ability to grip objects, lift heavy items, or perform certain movements.
  • Changes in Reflexes: In some cases, disc herniation can cause changes in reflexes. For example, in herniations involving the lower back, the knee or ankle reflexes may be altered.

Symptoms of Disc Herniation:

Disc herniation can manifest through a range of symptoms. The specific symptoms you may experience can depend on the location and severity of the herniated disc. Here are some common symptoms associated with disc herniation:

  • Pain: You might experience localized pain in your back or neck, depending on the location of the herniated disc. This pain can be sharp, dull, or throbbing.
  • Radiating pain: A distinctive symptom of disc herniation is pain that radiates along the path of the affected nerve. For instance, if the herniation is in your lower back, you may feel pain shooting down your leg (sciatica). If it's in your neck, the pain can extend to your arm or shoulder.
  • Numbness and tingling: Compression of nerves caused by the herniated disc can lead to sensations of numbness, tingling, or a "pins and needles" feeling in the affected area.
  • Muscle weakness: When a herniated disc compresses a nerve that controls muscle function, it can result in weakness in certain muscles. This weakness may make it difficult to grip objects, lift heavy items, or perform certain movements.
  • Changes in reflexes: In some cases, disc herniation can cause alterations in reflexes. For example, reflexes such as the knee or ankle jerk may be affected.
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When is the right time to see a Chiropractor for Disc Herniation?

It is recommended to see a chiropractor if you are experiencing symptoms of disc herniation or persistent back pain that affects your daily activities and quality of life. If you have tried home remedies, such as rest, ice, heat, and over-the-counter pain medications, but the pain persists or worsens, it may be a good time to seek professional help.

Additionally, if you are experiencing numbness, tingling, or weakness in your arms, legs, or other parts of your body, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional. These symptoms could indicate nerve compression or damage, which may require further evaluation and treatment.

Meet our Lead Chiropractor

Dr. Brett Herlehy

Dr. Brett Herlehy

Chiropractor

Doctor of Chiropractic from New York Chiropractic College

Dr. Brett enjoys working with active individuals looking to reach the next level and also anyone who is trying to incorporate more physical activity into their daily lives.

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Physiotherapist Brittany Pereira working with client at Anchor Health and Performance Clinic Mississauga
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