A friend once said, "I thought people who complained of chronic
back pain were babies, until I injured my back. Now I understand."
Herniated discs are common causes of low back pain. They can
cause dull aching pain or severe sharp stabbing pain with
muscle weakness and loss of feeling. The pain will often radiate
from the back down the leg. The severity of symptoms and the
time it takes to heal varies depending on the extent of the
If our spines were one solid piece of bone we would be stiff
and unable to move. Our spines were built with multiple moveable
pieces to allow us to bend, twist and rotate. The hard spinal
bones, or vertebrae, are separated by discs. The discs have
a tough outer covering and a fluid filled inside. The discs
serve as shock absorbers between the spinal bones and safely
allow the bones to move.
Discs can be thought of as jelly doughnuts. If they become
injured or torn, the jelly can be squished out toward the
spinal nerves. The "jelly" release will cause inflammation
and put pressure on the nerves resulting in pain, muscle weakness,
or change of sensation. More severe injuries will cause more
"jelly" to be pushed toward the nerve, creating more inflammation
Free Chiropractic or Physical Therapy Evaluation or 6 decompression
treatments for $200.
What are some causes of herniated Discs?
(Insurance often covers treatment and your costs could be
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problems are associated with age-related degeneration, or
years of wear and tear on the discs. Years of repetitive stress
cause small tears on the outside of the disc. Combined with
age-related water loss in the disc, repetitive stress causes
the discs to become less flexible and more prone to damage.
Eventually, a small movement or twist will cause the disc
to rupture the "jelly" toward the nerve. The "jelly" will
cause inflammation to form and will create pressure around
the nerves, and this will result in radiating pain, loss of
sensation, decreased muscle strength or decreased reflexes
associated with disc problems.
I had spinal disc decompression in the past with sciatic pain,
but the treatment was much better with the Chiropractor and
Physical Therapist working together. The massage therapy helped
too. J.R. Chandler, AZ
What are the risk factors of herniated discs?
injuries are a factor of time, force and repetition. Herniated
discs are more prone in occupations that involve repetitive
lifting, bending, twisting, pushing or pulling. Jobs that
are physically demanding obviously place more stress on the
discs and lead to greater injuries. Additionally, jobs that
involve extended periods of standing or sitting also have
greater rates of disc injuries. Sitting actually places more
stress on the discs than standing, and sitting for extend
periods of time can be just as damaging to the back as lifting
activities can be.
Other factors that increase disc injuries are associated with
forces placed on discs or factors that affect the disc's health.
Extra body weight places more stress on the discs and older
discs are less pliable than younger ones. Previous injuries
create weakened spots in the discs and increase likelihood
of further injury. Smoking and diabetes affect the health
of the discs by limiting oxygen and nutrients to the discs.
How are disc injuries diagnosed?
injuries are different from other low back injuries because
of the "jelly" affecting the nerve root. Treatment of the
injuries will therefore be different than a simple muscle
sprain, so it is important to correctly identify disc injuries.
Disc injuries can be identified through a physical exam, whereby
certain tests will identify the type and severity of symptoms.
If pain is radiating down the leg, the doctor will probably
test muscle strength, reflexes and sensation, as these factors
can be affected by disc herniations. Additionally, MRI and
X-Ray may be utilized for further information and may also
be used to rule out other causes of low back pain.
Are there complications of disc herniations?
Since the symptoms associated with herniated discs are caused
by increased pressure around a nerve root, additional pressure
can cause severe damage to the nerve. In extreme cases, the
pressure can cause equine syndrome whereby the extensive pressure
increase will cause loss of bowel or bladder control, significant
and increasing pain, and a loss of sensation in the inner
thigh and back of legs. This is an emergency medical situation
that requires surgery.
How are herniated discs treated?
Most disc herniations can be treated through conservative
methods that involve reducing stress to the disc, relieving
muscle spasms, and increasing joint motion. Light exercises
and stretches prescribed by your healthcare provider will
speed recovery and prevent future problems.
Chiropractic therapy will improve the joint motion, will relax
the muscles, and will reduce pressure on the disc. Distraction
therapy, which involves directly taking pressure off the disc
and reducing pressure on the nerve root, can also be employed.
These techniques can be safely performed by a licensed professional
and will quickly reduce the pain and discomfort. Most people
will feel some immediate relief after therapy.
Modification of activity and identifying activities that increase
stress to the disc is very important, and this will be addressed
by your healthcare professional. Disc injuries commonly take
several months to completely heal, so it is important to recognize
and reduce risk factors and activities that will cause the
injury to reoccur.
Long term goals of therapy are to properly strengthen the
core musculature to prevent future injuries to the discs.
Establishing better core muscle control will reduce future
stress to the disc and spine, thereby reducing future injuries.
Research has shown tremendous improvement in strengthening
the core muscles and reducing back pain, particularly in patients
with chronic low back pain.
Medications are often combined with treatment to reduce inflammation
and muscle spasm and to decrease pain. Surgery is performed
in cases that fail to improve with proper conservative treatment.
How do I prevent disc injuries?
Several factors will help prevent disc injuries which include
proper exercises, maintaining a proper body weight, and improving
posture. Poor posture places bad stress on the disc, especially
with extended periods of sitting or improper lifting.
Low back injuries are often associated with poor control of
the core musculature which leads to re-injury. Specific exercises
will improve this performance and improve quality of life.
People who properly retrain the core musculature will see
a decrease in future occurrences and reduction in low back
(exercise ball) for more information on core
strengthening exercises. As every individual has different
levels of strength and injury, it is important to seek professional
help when trying to rehabilitate core strength after low back
injuries. Many people make the mistake of starting exercise
programs that are too intense, and eventually lead to injuries
instead of preventing them. Call Alpha Chiropractic today
to begin your proper disc injury rehabilitation program at