Disc Injuries

Disc Injuries, herniated discs, and most spinal disc problems occur due to old age, causing pain in the spine. These are just some of the spine injuries chiropractic adjustments address.

The spine is made up of bones called vertebrae. Flexible discs connect the vertebrae and act as a cushion. When the discs are healthy, they act like shock absorbers to help the spine naturally bend and move.

 

What is a Herniated Disc?

If one or more of your discs is suddenly damaged, it may tear. A herniated disc, also referred to as a slipped or ruptured disc, occurs if some of the nucleus of the disc ruptures. This causes the disc to become smaller and provide less cushioning. As a result, vertebrae may grind together, which can lead to increased pressure on nerve roots. Depending on each unique situation, a herniated disc can result in mild to severe pain, including possible nerve damage.

Causes

Herniated discs can be found in many locations in the spine, but most cases occur in the lower back, known as the lumbar spine. There are several common causes for herniated discs: lifting, straining, natural wear and tear from the aging process, trauma and previous spine injuries.
 

When the herniated disc ruptures and pushes out, the nerves may become pinched. A herniated disc may occur suddenly in an event such as a fall or an accident, or may occur gradually with repetitive straining of the spine. When a herniated disc occurs, the space for the nerves is further diminished, and irritation of the nerve results.

 

Prevention

There are steps people can take to reduce their chances of experiencing a herniated disc complication. Several simple actions that help prevent herniated discs include:

  • Maintaining good posture, especially if you sit for a long time

  • Lifting with the legs instead of the back

  • Participating in regular exercise with proper form

  • Maintaining a healthy weight. Being overweight puts a strain on the spine and discs.

  • Strengthen your core muscles supporting the spine to reduce pressure on the intervertebral disc

  • Not smoking
     

Spinal disc herniation can happen suddenly and unexpectedly, or it can begin slowly and escalate over a period of time.

What are the symptoms of a herniated disc?

When the spinal cord or spinal nerves become compressed, they don’t work properly. As a result, they may pass abnormal signals from the compressed nerves, or do not pass signals at all.

Common symptoms of a herniated disc include:

  • Electric Shock Pain
    Pressure on the nerve can cause abnormal sensations, commonly experienced as electric shock pains. When the compression occurs in the cervical (neck) region, the shocks go down your arms, when the compression is in the lumbar (low back) region, the shocks go down your legs. This may be severe and cause immobility due to the pain.
     

  • Tingling & Numbness 
    Patients often have abnormal sensations such as tingling, numbness, or pins and needles. These symptoms may be experienced in the same region as painful electric shock sensations.
     

  • Muscle Weakness 
    Because of the nerve irritation, signals from the brain may be interrupted causing muscle weakness. Nerve irritation can also be tested by examining reflexes.
     

  • Muscle Spasms 
    If the nerve irritation or compression is severe this may lead to muscles going into spasm causing pain and discomfort.
     

  • Bowel or Bladder Problems 
    These symptoms are important because it may be a sign of cauda equina syndrome, a possible condition resulting from a herniated disc. This is a medical emergency, and you should see your doctor immediately if you have problems urinating, having bowel movements, or if you have numbness around your genitals.

 

Treatment

Depending on the individual, a herniated disc can take weeks or months to heal. During this time, if not properly treated, a herniated disc can worsen and cause nerve damage. Most people begin with nonsurgical treatments, as surgery is often unnecessary to heal a herniated disc.

Nonsurgical treatments include medication and physical therapy. Medication can reduce swelling and pain, as well as alleviate pressure. Physical therapy can strengthen muscles to further protect the spine.

In emergency situations, people may need to undergo surgery immediately. Those whose condition does not improve with nonsurgical treatments may also be candidates for surgical correction. The surgical procedure for herniated discs is called microdiscectomy. This is a one-day, minimally invasive procedure that removes the part of the disc that is pressing on the nerve or spinal cord. The procedure is done using a special microscope to view the disc and nerves.