The discs in your spine act as shock absorbers, and keep vertebrae from rubbing together. Discs are made up of cartilage. The outer layer of cartilage is hard, while the inner layer of discs is soft. Over time, your vertebral discs will wear out. A disc can bulge or herniation from injuries. Dehydrated cartilage can cause a disc to become stiffer and less cushiony, which will reduce the space between your vertebrae. You might feel pain, stiffness, or restricted range of motion if the space between your vertebrae becomes narrower.
What is a Disc Protrusion?
Slipped disc Bulging disc. Disc protrusion. Disc prolapse. Herniated disc. Although these terms are frequently used interchangeably, they do not accurately describe what is going on inside your body. You will find a disc between each vertebrae of your spine made from a soft, spongy substance (the nucleus Pulposus) within a membrane (the Annulus Fibrosus), similar to a stress ball.
The disc acts as a shock absorber, allowing your spine to bend, twist and move. If there is enough pressure or force, the nucleus pulposus may push against the membrane, creating a disc protrusion, also known as a prolapsed disc or bulging disc. The annulus fibrosus can burst if there is enough force or pressure. This is known as a “disc herniation”.
Symptoms of disc protrusion or herniation
The pressure placed on your spinal cord nerves by the bulging or leaking out of the disc’s inner material causes it to press against the spine. This is what causes pain and other symptoms. The exact symptoms you experience will depend upon the location of your disc protrusion. However, the most common symptoms include:
These symptoms can often be felt in the limbs because of the way nerves branch throughout your body.
What causes a disc protrusion?
Disc protrusions can be a sign of degenerative conditions. They can happen in three ways: injury, stress, or both. Your discs may naturally thin and begin to break down as you get older. Gravity pulls on the spine, which can lead to disc protrusion or rupture. This can be accelerated by poor posture, overexertion, and being overweight.
The study showed that disc protrusion was increasing in young people (below 25 years old). Six out of 33 disc protrusion patients were smokers. The average Body Mass Index (BMI) was in the “overweight” category. All had sedentary lives. A disc protrusion can also be caused by sudden, extreme force (such a car accident). You may be able to pinpoint the source of your herniated disc if you were in an accident. However, many people don’t know the exact time it happened.
A Bulging Disc
Bulging discs are caused by the outer layer of the disc becoming compressed and the disc becoming more flattened. Although the disc is not affected, the bulge tends to be evenly distributed throughout. Although bulging discs can cause damage, chiropractic care can help reduce inflammation and pain.
Understanding a Herniated Disc
A herniated disc is different from a bulging disc. A herniated disc is caused by damage to the outer cartilage layer and protruding inner layer. A herniated disc might also be called a ruptured disc or slipped disc by your doctor. This means that your outer disc layer has been damaged and you will feel more pain. Nerve pain can be very difficult to treat because herniated discs are more likely to reach nerve endings than bulging discs.
Chiropractic Assessments for Disc Problems
Chiropractic care examines the function of your spine and determines what can be done to correct any misalignments. Although you can get pain relief from a chiropractor, it is important to keep in touch with them on a regular basis. The first step in chiropractic treatment is to carefully assess your spine for any issues that could be causing pain, stiffness, or inflammation. To determine the condition of your discs, your chiropractor will examine any imaging done on your spine. Your chiropractor will create a treatment plan that addresses the problem areas once they are identified.
Treatment of Herniated and Bulging Discs
Chiropractic treatment may be able to relieve some pressure from a bulging or herniated disc. To open the space between your vertebrae, decompression strategies like stretching and traction can be used. To keep your spine aligned, strengthening exercises will be given to you. Although you might feel relief at first, it is important that you continue to see your chiropractor if you need help with a bulging disc or herniated disc.
Chiropractic care can be used to relieve pain, stiffness, and swelling from herniated or bulging discs. You might be told surgery is the only option. It’s time to consult a chiropractor. It might be possible to reduce your pain and get back to normal. Some people can delay the need for surgery while others are able avoid it completely.
Is Chiropractic Safe?
Low back pain is a popular treatment option for Chiropractic care. There may be an underlying fear or concern. This treatment could increase the likelihood of lumbar disc herniation. We often see someone suffering from severe pain from a herniated disc. They waited too long to seek help as they were afraid the chiropractor would make things worse. The chiropractor might have told them that their back would be cracked. They may be subject to fast, forceful movements that can injure or hurt their backs. There are many urban legends about the safety of chiropractic care.
Are Herniated Discs a Cause of Sciatica and Back Pain?
A bulging disc or herniated disc can cause low back pain (LBP). We also have clues from your medical history and physical exam that may indicate LDH could be the cause of your pain. The chiropractor may crack your back, which could cause disc damage or aggravate. You might be afraid that the chiropractor will crack your back, which could cause disc damage. If this happens, you may need surgery.
What does Science have to say?
The authors looked into whether a chiropractor’s treatment for back pain or sciatica could increase the likelihood of a herniated disc that required surgery. The authors compared patients who saw a chiropractor to treat their back pain with those who went to their family doctor.
It was assumed that people who went to their family doctor didn’t receive manual therapy (spinal manipulation), while those who went to the chiropractor would.
All adults with acute LDH who required early surgery between April 1994 and December 2004 were examined by the authors. The authors compared patients who had been to a chiropractor before the emergency department visit with those who hadn’t. This was also done for those who had previously seen their primary care provider (e.g. They also compared this to those who had seen their primary care provider (e.g., family doctor) before visiting the emergency department.
This was a large patient population, as you can see. This was measured in person years (number of people x age). It reached over 100 million people a year. It’s hard to believe that number.
What were the results?
In a population exceeding 100 million people-years, 195 cases of acute LDH were diagnosed with early surgery (within 8 week). The risk of acute LDH associated with early chiropractic care was lower than that associated with primary care physician visits.
What does this all mean?
A bulging disc or herniated disc can cause back pain. Sciatica, or pain running down the legs, can start as back discomfort. Back pain is often treated by a chiropractor, their family doctor or both. Some people with herniated discs experience rapid progression and need to be seen at an emergency department.
This study proves that chiropractic treatment did not cause the progression of symptoms as much as it could have been caused if the patient visited the family physician.
Other gentler forms of treatment are offered by chiropractors
Personal note: We see many people suffering from back pain and sciatica and can help them. It is wrong to think that chiropractic care is about just getting your spine straightened (spinal manipulation). Modern chiropractors offer a wide range of treatments to relieve pain and get you moving again. There are a variety of treatments available, including gentle soft tissue therapy, intermittent traction, and graded mobilisation.
A good chiropractor will combine active and passive care. Self-help strategies could be included to:
- Reduce your pain
- Spine Sparing Strategies allows you to resume normal activities while keeping your back safe.