The spinal column is made up of over 30 individual vertebrae divided into three categorical regions; the top section known as the cervical vertebra, the middle region known as the thoracic vertebra, and the lower region known as the lumbar vertebra. With the exception of the first two cervical vertebrae, all of the vertebra in the spinal column have intervertebral discs between them that act as shock-absorbing cushions. These cushions prevent the individual vertebra from rubbing against each other every time you move.
Sometimes, as the result of some type of injury, one or more of these discs can protrude outward from the vertebra, becoming “herniated.” When this happens, the disc will often put pressure on nerves, causing pain.
Herniated discs are also sometimes referred to as slipped discs because the disc has moved out of its normal position between the vertebra. While the degree of slippage is typically minimal, it doesn’t take much to result in a pinched nerve that causes excruciating pain. Herniated discs are also sometimes called ruptured discs, but this is a bit of a misnomer as the disc itself does not usually rupture, but the casing that holds the discs in place develops a tear that allows the disc to move out of position.
A herniated disc can cause severe back pain, typically in the lumbar region. This can result in shooting pain across and/or down the back and/or into one or both the legs. When the pain extends into the legs, it is referred to as sciatica, as it is the sciatic nerve that is being affected. Often the symptoms of a minor herniated disc will abate on its own, with rest, as the body heals itself. However, severe cases, or when symptoms don’t improve with rest, will usually benefit from care.
While surgical options exist, these should only be considered as a last resort. Aside from being invasive, back surgeries don’t always achieve the hoped-for results. The better option for treating a herniated disc is chiropractic care.
As a pain relief specialist, your chiropractor will first perform a full physical exam to evaluate the extent of your injury, to locate the source of your pain. The exam may involve imaging tests such as X-rays, an MRI, or a C.T. scan. The doctor will also physically exam the affected areas, checking for painful areas, nerve function, and muscle strength.
Once the source of the pain has been located, your chiropractor will usually provide some form of a therapeutic procedure, such as spinal adjustment or massage therapy, to help the herniated disc naturally slip back into its proper place and elevate the pressure on the nerves causing the pain. A one-time adjustment may be all that is needed for minor cases, or ongoing care may be required for more severe injuries. Your doctor will explain the best course of care for your specific situation.
If you are experiencing back pain, especially pain that radiates down into your legs, you may be dealing with a herniated disc. Call our office today to schedule a consultation. We are the areas top pain relief specialist, and our entire team at Brookfield Chiropractic promises always to make your health our top priority.