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Disc Herniation


Disc Herniation

The spinal column consists of a series of bones known as the vertebras stacked onto each other.

Starting from the upper portion of the spinal column, there are:

  • 7 bones in the cervical spine
  • 12 in the thoracic spine
  • 5 in the lumbar spine.

The lower portion of the spinal column has the sacrum and the coccyx at the base.

To cushion the impact of these structures, every two bones are separated by a disc that absorbs shocks from daily activities (e.g., walking, twisting, lifting objects).

Each disc has two parts:

  • A soft, gelatinous inner portion
  • A tough outer ring

When an injury occurs in the outer ring of the disc, the inner portion may protrude or swell up, leading to a condition known as a herniated disc.

On this page, we will discuss the causes, symptoms, types, diagnosis, and treatment options for a disc herniation.

How many people are affected by disc herniation?

According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, the prevalence of low back pain in the American population is 75-85%.

The incidence of disc herniation is 2% of the US population. That means more than 6 million Americans seek medical help every year for it.

These statistics should give you a glimpse of just how common this injury might be.

Causes of Disc Herniations

Disc herniation occurs when the inner portion of the disc goes through the outer ring due to weakness or tearing.

Note that disc herniations are more common in elderly individuals; however, it can occur at any age!

Researchers identified certain motions that increase the risk of disc herniations, including twisting or turning to lift an object. Additionally, lifting very heavy objects applies substantial pressure on your lower back, which may predispose you to a disc herniation.

Interestingly, researchers noted that certain physically-demanding jobs may increase the risk of intervertebral disc damage.

Other risk factors for Disc Herniations include:

Obesity – Overweight individuals are at a greater risk of developing disc herniation due to the added pressure on the discs.

Sedentary lifestyle – Sedentary lifestyle will inevitably lead to weak core and back muscles. As a result, you will be prone to developing disc herniations after sudden movements.

Types of Herniations

To improve the efficiency of disc herniation management, experts divided this condition into several types:

Posterolateral Herniation – as the name implies, the protrusion in this type occurs in the back and lateral side (45 degree angle to the back) of the vertebral canal. Consequently, the lower nerves get compressed, which presents with a variety of signs and symptoms.

Posterior Herniation – this type of herniation is less frequent. The site of the protrusion is posterior (i.e., the back of the disc). If the protrusion occurs above the 2nd lumbar vertebra, it may lead to the compression of the spinal cord or Cauda Equina syndrome.

Lateral herniation – the most commonly involved disc is L4. The compression occurs above the level of the herniation.

Signs and Symptoms of Disc Herniations

Due to the various discs affected by this condition, the signs and symptoms vary from one patient to another. The lower back is by far the most affected region by slipped discs.

Here are the common signs and symptoms of disc herniation:

  • Pain and numbness that affects one side
  • Pain extending to the upper and lower extremities
  • Unexplained muscle weakness
  • Exacerbated pain by certain movements
  • The trigger of pain after standing or sitting
  • Pain when walking short distances
  • Tingling and burning sensations in the affected region

The Treatment Options For Disc Herniations

The treatment options for disc herniations are diverse and include:

Chiropractic care

Chiropractic care is indispensable for treating disc herniation. This modality focuses on the following elements:

  • Pain control
  • Education on maintaining a healthy weight
  • Ambulatory exercise routines
  • Flexion Distraction technique or traction tables
    • Help suck the disc back in via negative pressure if the ligaments are intact

The Superiority Of Chiropractic Care Over Other Treatments

Most physicians recommend chiropractic care to restore the functional and neurological deficits associated with disc herniation.

It is superior to surgery and medical therapy since it improves the prognosis of patients without exposing them to the side effects of drugs or the complications of surgeries.

In fact, several studies found that spine clinics provide excellent care for patients with damaged discs relative to other treatment modalities. Nerves passing through the vertebral column shouldn’t be obstructed. When a disc herniate, buldges, or protrudes, it may push on the nerves in the spinal colum.  Consequently, the symptoms of the patient with a disc buldge are generally milder than in the case of a herniated disc.

Experts recommend sticking with chiropractic care in the case where a herniated disc is not severe.

You need to keep in mind that working with a Chiropractor is essential since you want to work with someone who knows what he/she’s doing and is specifically specialized in treating disc herniations.

Unfortunately, surgery carries several adverse effects that could compromise several functional aspects of your life in the future. However, if all treatment fails, surgery might is necessary in some cases as a last resort. Chiropractic care remains the most effective treatment to relieve pain and restore functionality.

Medical management

Acute cases of disc herniations that present with severe pain may requires medical management.

Selective nerve root block and epidural injections (i.e., inside the spinal cord) are second-line modalities for disabling pain.

Surgical treatment

Surgery is the last resort treatment for disc herniation.

Common procedures include laminectomies with discectomies and microdiscectomies.

Other treatments include:

  • Intradiscal electrothermic therapy
  • Nucleoplasty
  • Chemonucleolysis
  • Disc arthroplasty

Takeaway message

Disc herniation is a very common condition that affects millions of people around the world. Treating a herniated disc is a multistep process that involves medical and surgical treatments, as well as Chiropractic care.

We hope that this article managed to highlight the causes, symptoms, and treatments of disc herniation.

If you still have any questions, concerns, or anything that you want to add to to this page, please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts on the contact us page.