Definition of a Herniated Disc
According to Mayo Clinic, a herniated disc is when the soft inner portion of the disc’s nucleus pushes into a crack in its outer annulus. This rupture can cause nerve compressions. A chiropractor is often recommended to treat this condition. This can cause pain, weakness, and even severe nerve damage. A herniated or ruptured disc may also be known as a slipped disc.
What Is a “Slipped” Disc? Is it the Same as a Herniated Disc?
The intervertebral disc is located between each vertebrae, with the exception of C1 and C2 vertebrae. Discs provide flexibility and act as shock absorbers and shock distributors.
Imagine jumping up and down. What would happen if the bony vertebrae which make up the spine were to fall apart without the support and cushioning of the discs? Move your back from one side to the other. Once again, you will be able to see the interaction between the vertebrae and the discs. Your spine would not function without them.
Although intervertebral discs are not “slippery”, the term “slipped disc” has become a popular term to refer to bulging or ruptured discs. In this article, we will refer to herniated or ruptured discs.
Your discs are composed of the annulus fibrosus (the hard outer layer) as well as the nucleus pulposus which contains a soft, gelatinous center. (See Figure 1.) The material inside the disc can push out if cracks develop in its outer layer. There are many factors that can cause a disc to herniate.
Can a sneeze cause a herniated disc?
Many people who have back pain due to a herniated disc (ie, back pain) begin with a small problem and then slowly builds up until you feel the symptoms like back pain.
Imagine that you sneeze suddenly and feel a sharp pain in your back. That pain may progress into sciatica or leg pain. It is possible that you have an underlying herniated or bulging disc. Then, the sneeze caused it to worsen. A sneeze, or a cough, can cause an intervertebral disc to herniate.
Chiropractic Care and Herniated Discs
A chiropractor can help with back pain or other herniated disc symptoms. The first appointment will involve a thorough medical history and physical examination. Your chiropractor may also perform neurological and orthopedic tests.
A chiropractor will check for many things. These are questions your chiropractor can help answer through orthopedics and neurological exams.
Are your reflexes working properly? Is your brain sending correct messages? (The classic reflex test is where the doctor taps your knee using a small hammer, and your leg lifts.
Are you experiencing muscle weakness or signs of wasting?
Is there any sensation loss along the nerve’s route?
The chiropractor will examine your posture and may order an Xray or MRI to assist with diagnosis.
Chiropractors examine the whole spine. Even if your lower back pain is minor, your chiropractor will also examine your neck. The chiropractor wants to assess how your spine functions overall. And remember, what happens in one region of your spine could have an effect on other areas of your body.
This information will help your chiropractor determine if there is an intervertebral disc injury. The type of disc injuries you have will dictate the treatment your chiropractor uses to treat them.
Some patients are not suitable candidates for certain chiropractic care treatments. Cauda equina is a condition that causes you to lose control of your bladder/bowel with intervertebral disc injuries. Your chiropractor cannot treat this condition.
If your chiropractor discovers that you have lost strength, sensation, or other abnormal neurological findings, they will refer you for treatment to a spine surgeon.
The majority of intervertebral disc injury are due to a herniated disc. Your chiropractor can offer various treatment options for your pain.
Your chiropractor will devise a treatment plan for a herniated spine. It may include spinal manipulation (also called adjustments) and other chiropractic techniques to ease the symptoms. The treatment plan will be individualized and may include manual therapy as well as therapeutic exercises.
You and your chiropractor will determine what is best for you. You can ask any questions you like about chiropractic treatments and the reasons for them. You need to be clear about what you will receive and how it may help with your pain. For most patients, chiropractic is safe and efficient.
There is a myth that chiropractors can “pop a disc back in its place” by forceful adjustments. The sound of a “popping” is caused by gas being released under pressure in a joint. It’s similar to when you open a can full of soda. Another misconception is that chiropractors only offer a few treatments to “fix” your disc. Instead, chiropractors treat herniated discs with gentle low-force methods, as described above.
How can a chiropractor help with a herniated disc
Herniated discs happen when the disc that cushions the vertebrae in the spine is damaged. This type of degenerative disc disease can cause pain by placing strain on nearby nerves.
Non-invasive treatment options are available to relieve the symptoms. Chiropractic care is one option. Here’s how a chiropractor may help with pain from a herniated disc.
Take a look at your overall condition
Your chiropractor will assess the severity of the herniated disc damage. Instead of focusing on the parts that are painful, expect your chiropractor to assess your entire spine. They will also examine your medical history, and may perform a physical examination. They might also order diagnostic tests, if necessary.
During your first consultation, they will also assess your condition. The focus of their evaluation is on the following criteria.
- If your reflexes feel normal
- If you experience muscle loss or diminished muscle strength
- If you feel numbness/loss of sensation
They may refer you to a spine surgeon depending on your findings. Sensitivity, muscle strength, and reflex loss can indicate the need for aggressive treatment.
They will also determine if you are a suitable candidate for chiropractic treatment. There are some patients who cannot undergo chiropractic adjustments.
- Spinal cancer
- Advanced osteoporosis
- A bone anomaly in the upper neck
- High risk of stroke
Perform Chiropractic Techniques
After your chiropractor has determined that you are suitable for spinal manipulation, they will create your treatment plan. This program will be tailored to your needs and condition.
These are some of the techniques chiropractors use with patients suffering from herniated discs.
This type of spinal adjustment reduces pressure on the discs. This involves the use of a special table that makes it easier for your chiropractors to stretch your back. With a gentle pumping rhythm, they will apply light pressure to the affected area.
The gentle, pain-free Flexion Distraction procedure is great for those suffering from severe pain. You can relieve your symptoms by moving the herniated disc away from the nerve.
Pelvic Blocking Treatments
This technique uses cushioned wedges that are specially designed for chiropractic use. The pelvic block procedure is when your chiropractor places these wedges under your pelvis on both sides. This will allow your chiropractor to naturally remove the herniated disc from the affected area.
In addition to helping with herniated spines, pelvic blockage can also be helpful with other conditions such as headaches.
Recommendations: Additional Treatment Options
Your chiropractor may recommend that you include other techniques in your treatment plan to increase the effectiveness of your plan. These are the options your chiropractor may recommend depending on your specific condition.
- 3D Active Traction
- Laser therapy
- Massage therapy
- Ultrasound-guided Injections
These conservative treatments are able to target the root cause and alleviate your painful symptoms.
Manipulation with anesthesia
If a patient is suffering from severe pain due to herniated discs, this procedure can be performed. The patient will not feel any discomfort during treatment. The procedure takes approximately 15 to 1 hour. It may also require multiple days of treatment for a herniated disc. There are several types of anesthesia, each depending on the patient’s pain level. A chiropractor might use local anesthetics, mild sedation, or general anesthesia.
Your chiropractor will devise a treatment plan for herniated disc. If you are not able to improve your symptoms with chiropractic care, your chiropractor may suggest that you consult a pain management specialist as well as a spine surgeon.