Herniated discs are a common problem, especially for older folks and people who regularly perform physical activities such as athletes, builders, etc. Most people don’t even notice them, but once the condition affects a nearby nerve, complications such as pain, numbness, and weakness often occur. When this happens, it’s good to call a chiropractor in Sydney City for treatment. A chiropractor can help effectively alleviate the symptoms of herniated discs through different methods without the need for drugs or surgery.
What Is a Herniated Disc?
Between each vertebra (except between the top two vertebrae in the neck), there is a disc that absorbs and distributes shock and allows for flexibility. These discs have a gel-like centre (nucleus pulposus) encased in a tough, fibrous exterior (annulus fibrosus). Sometimes, the discs tear or rupture, causing the nucleus to be pushed out through a tear or crack in the annulus—this condition refers to a herniated disc.
Causes of a Herniated Disc
Many factors can cause a disc to herniate, such as:
- Vertebral dysfunction – poor movement of the vertebrae can facilitate ‘wear and tear’ to occur over months and years due to the discs not being able to retain their hydration; this is the most common cause of herniated discs.
- Injury – high-impact movement can traumatize the discs.
- Repetitive movements – from work, lifestyle, or sports that put stress on the spine, especially the lower back.
- Obesity – excess weight can put pressure on the spine.
- Genetics – some genetic ailments can weaken the spine and even contribute to disc degeneration.
- Heavy lifting – even just lifting something relatively heavy the wrong way can cause spinal trauma.
- Falls – if traumatic enough, falling or slipping on your bottom or back can cause a herniated disc.
- Smoking – smoking lessens the blood supply to the vertebrae which limits the nutrition and hydration of the disc, potentially causing it to degenerate too quickly.
Symptoms of a Herniated Disc
A herniated disc can occur in the cervical, thoracic or lumbar regions of the spine, but it’s most common in the lower back. Many people don’t experience symptoms of a herniated disc. But it becomes unpleasant once it irritates a nearby nerve. Some common symptoms of a herniated disc include:
- Spinal pain – a sharp or stabbing spinal pain on movement / loading or a strong dull deep pain that might also be relieved by lying down still
- Muscle Spasm – neck or low back muscles that tighten up continuously so bending or moving around is difficult. The body might even be distorted into a tilted position
- Limb pain – a sharp or burning pain in the shoulders and arms (if the neck is affected) or the hips, buttocks, or legs (if the lower back is affected); it can reach a point where it hampers your daily activity.
- Numbness – a tingling feeling in the body parts near the nerve affected by the herniated disc.
- Weak muscles – the inability to hold or lift items, or to walk without stumbling.
- Bladder dysfunction or incontinence – the incapacity to relieve yourself comfortably
- Loss of sensation – the inability to feel sensation, especially in the inner thighs, back of the legs, or the area around the rectum.
How Can a Chiropractor Help with a Herniated Disc?
After a proper diagnosis, which may include an x-ray, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or other tests and technologies to get a clearer image of the issue at hand, a chiropractor will develop a treatment plan with options designed for your specific problem. These may include spinal manipulation (known as adjustments when done by a chiropractor) as well as other chiropractic techniques, therapies, and exercises.
Here are some examples of chiropractic programs used to treat herniated discs:
Manipulation done by chiropractors is considered safe however there are times when risk is high such as if someone had a fractured vertebra. There are different techniques of chiropractic adjustments and one suited to a higher risk injury such as a herniated disc is Gonstead technique. Gonstead technique is primarily focused on correcting the disc mechanics which is a key part of the herniated disc. With care, this can give remarkable improvement in disc pain and nerve compression in the spine.
There are a few traction techniques to help decompress the spine. Axial traction that is more of a medical approach can have benefits, however there are some advanced motorised equipment techniques that a few chiropractors use. A more common traction is the flexion-distraction technique which requires a patient to lie down on a specialized table that gently “distracts” or stretches the spine. While the spine is stretched, it’s in a position that facilitates the nucleus pulposus to suction back centrally where it originates from. The chiropractor isolates the problem vertebra and treats it with a specific hand technique. A final traction technique is Chiropractic BioPhysics (CBP) which uses traction belts with pulleys and foam blocks to specifically traction the concerned part of the spine for a global improvement in spinal positioning, not just a local improvement. These techniques help to move the disc pressure from the nerve, potentially reducing pain.
Pelvic Blocking Techniques
Pelvic blocking techniques involve a patient lying down on a chiropractic table with cushioned wedges placed under the pelvic area. By stretching out this region, the pressure on the lower spine is reduced. Pelvic blocking techniques also help correct the posture to draw the herniated disc away from any affected nerves. It’s usually done alongside some gentle exercises.
I Have a Herniated Disc—Should I Call a Chiropractor?
Once you suspect a herniated disc, a call to a chiropractor may just be what you need to treat any pain or discomfort, especially if you want it done in a non-invasive way that doesn’t require surgery or the use of drugs. “Can a chiropractor help with hip pain? Neck pain? Muscle pain? Shoulder pain” The answer is yes. Chiropractors deal with the entire spine, too, so even if you just come in for a herniated disk treatment, you can get diagnosed for ailments involving other regions in the neuro-musculoskeletal system, and walk away with better overall spinal health.