What is causing the sharp shooting pain in my left leg? What can I do if my neck hurts when I turn? How can I treat a spasm in my lower back? A herniated disc can cause any of these types of pain. It presses on the spinal cords.
Acupuncture is an effective treatment to relieve the symptoms of a herniated disc. It also speeds up the healing process without any side effects. A herniated or “slipped disc”, also known as a bulging disc or “slipped disc”, is when one of the shock-absorbing cartilage discs between the vertebrae becomes damaged and puts pressure on the nerves, muscles, and other parts of the spine.
This condition is also known as a prolapsed disc. It causes inflammation and swelling in a specific area of the spine. It can lead to severe pain in the neck and lower back, as well as sciatica pain and radiating tingling down the legs. The vertebral column (or backbone) is composed of individual bones called vertebrae and intervertebral discs. These discs act as ligaments to hold the bones together and provide cushioning between them.
These discs act as shock absorbers to protect the spinal column. They are composed of hard, fibrous outer layers and a gel-like substance inside. The soft gel interior can be pulled outwards and broken if there is any damage to the outer layers of tissues. This can cause pressure to the spinal column nerves, which can lead to symptoms such as pain, numbness and/or loss in ability.
A herniated disc, also known as a “ruptured spine”, is most commonly found in the lumbar spine. If the disc presses on a nerve, a lumbar herniated disc can cause severe lower back pain. The sciatic nerve can be affected by pressure. This condition is also called sciatica. The sciatic nerve is actually a bundle of smaller nerves. It connects the base and top of the legs, passing through the buttocks. Each side has a sciatic nerve bundle. Herniated discs are responsible for approximately 90% of all cases of sciatica.
A cervical disc herniation is a prolapsed disc that occurs between one of seven vertebrae in the cervical spine or neck. A herniated disc located in the C2 region can result in headaches or pain in the eye and ear. Most commonly, a herniated disc is found in the C5,C6, or C7 areas of the cervical spine. This can cause neck pain and/or pain in the shoulder.
Although sciatica or neck pain caused by nerve compression in the spine usually resolves itself over time, it can be painful and cause severe discomfort for several weeks or even months. Herniated disc pain is usually treated with rest and immobilization, anti-inflammatory medication, muscle relaxers, or pain relievers. The root cause of the pain is not addressed by a lack of movement. Also, steroids and pain medication can often have unwanted side effects. Acupuncture can reduce the pain of sciatica, neck pain and shoulder pain as well as low back pain caused by slipped discs. It is often effective in relieving severe pain and helping to reduce inflammation.
Signs of Herniated Disc
A disc herniation can cause intense and sharp pain. Dependent on the disc, you may feel neck pain, low back or sciatic pain in your leg, foot or buttock. The inflammation of the nerves is caused by the compression of the center disc.
- A cervical herniated disc (in the neck) can cause pain in one side or the other. You may also feel the neck tender to the touch. It is more severe when you do vigorous activities, or when the head is turned at an angle. You may feel restricted and stiff in movement of your neck and head.
- The pain may radiate down the arm, causing an electric shock-like sensation in the hands and fingers.
- The pinching of nerves in the cervical spine may cause weakness in muscle movement, such as the arm, hand and thumb, or fingers.
- Lumbar herniated discs (in the lower back) are more likely to cause pain in the legs than the back. The pain usually is on one side. The radiating pain from compression of the sciatic nerve may be very intense, sharp, and burning.
- A herniated lumbar disc may also cause pain in the buttock or low back. The pain could feel like a spasm or throbbing. You can try applying heat or cold to the affected area. It is more common to feel the pain when you sit or hunch over for a while or bend over from the waist.
- It may feel more like tingling, numbness, or pain in the foot, hip, leg, and buttocks.
- Foot drop is when nerve compression makes it hard to pick up the foot properly when walking. The result is that the toes drag onto the floor.
A herniated disc can cause severe pain that can be felt suddenly. Most herniations of the spinal discs are not serious and can be treated quickly.
What causes herniated discs?
People between the ages 30 and 50 are most likely to experience a bulging disc, or slipped disc. A sudden movement such as lifting heavy objects, twisting in an awkward manner, or even strong sneezes can cause a ruptured disc. However, the disc’s outer walls were likely already weak before this event.
Aging can lead to disc degeneration. Chronic herniation may develop over time and produce mild symptoms. Acute herniation could be caused by trauma (e.g., an accident). This can cause more severe damage to the outer disc layers (the annulus fibrosus), which allows the jelly-like material (the nucleus pulposus), to escape or push out of its containment. A herniated disc surgery is not recommended for everyone. However, it is sometimes recommended for those who have a prolapsed disc that is affecting bladder and bowel function in a severe way.
If severe pain persists for a prolonged period of time and does not improve, surgery may be recommended. The goal of herniated disc surgery is to relieve nerve compression by removing some disc tissue. A spinal fusion procedure is used to fuse the vertebrae with screws. The original disc tissue is removed and replaced with an implant.
Although these types of surgery for herniated discs may be helpful in relieving pain, there is a lengthy recovery period and the possibility that the pain will not go away.
Acupuncture Can Help with a Herniated Disc
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which has been around for thousands of years, is able to treat all kinds of pain conditions. According to TCM, herniated disc pain can be caused by:
- Injuries to the spine
- Invasion by cold, wind, and/or damp
- Deficiency of liver and/or kidneys
Acupuncture to treat a variety of conditions. This involves inserting very fine needles at specific points along meridians to deliver warm energy to the affected areas. TCM treatment of herniated discs will often concentrate on strengthening Qi (life force energy), blood flow to the kidneys, clearing dampness, and bringing warmth to the entire lower back.
A hospital clinical trial showed that acupuncture combined with moxa warm needle treatment with infrared heating and gentle exercise led to a 95% improvement in the pain associated with lumbar herniated disc. Recent systematic reviews of acupuncture for disc herniation revealed that acupuncture had better results than pain medication or lumbar manipulation.
One study that examined long-term outcomes of patients suffering from lumbar disc herniation found that 10 years after they received electric acupuncture treatment, their long-term results showed positive changes. This was a result that indicated that acupuncture had helped with their sciatica symptoms.
The Top 5 Tips to Naturally Heal a Herniated Disc
Most herniated disc pain will disappear within six weeks, without the need for medical treatment. There are things you can do in the interim to reduce pain and restore mobility.
- A qualified acupuncturist can help you. Combining acupuncture, herbal supplements, tuina massaging, moxibustion and infrared heating therapy can help to relieve pain and encourage healing.
- You can use heat or cold therapy. To gently heat the neck or lower back, you can use a heating pad or hot water bottle. Alternatively, you can icing the area. This will increase blood flow, reduce inflammation, and relieve stiffness.
- Keep active. When lower back pain and sciatica cause intense pain or tingling sensations, it can be tempting not to get up. Immobilization does not help with nerve pain and is more effective for keeping the muscles in the back strong. Regular low-impact activities such as swimming, biking, and walking will keep your endorphins flowing, and improve your mood, more than bed rest.
- Make sure you are comfortable in your sleep position. If you have a slipped disc, staying in bed can cause pain. To relieve tension in your lower back and maintain proper alignment, use a pillow to support your knees. To align the neck, use a firm orthopedic pillow.
- Nutrition is essential for nerve health. Some nutrients are particularly beneficial in building and maintaining nerve tissue. High quality supplements and a healthy diet will help you to get the most out of B-6, B-12 and Vitamin E vitamins. You should eat nuts, fish, and good quality plant-based oils regularly.
Good nutrition and regular exercise will help ensure that your pain condition does not return.