A herniated disc or “slipped disc” occurs when the discs within your spine begin to wear down with age and use. Without these discs working properly to absorb shock, you can experience a lot of pain within your spine. While most people are not at risk of suffering from a herniated disc, it is not uncommon in young to middle-aged adults who overwork their bodies. Despite the pain this condition can cause, there are options for relief through chiropractic care!
What is a Herniated Disc?
Between almost all your spinal vertebrae lies an intervertebral disc. These discs act as cushions to help absorb and distribute shock. Without them, your spine cannot function. However, as with almost every part of the body, the discs show signs of wear and tear with age.
While the phrase “slipped disc” has become a popular term for bulging, ruptured, or herniated discs, intervertebral discs do not actually “slip.” The annulus fibrosus (the tough outer layer) and the nucleus pulposus (the soft, gelatin-like center) make up your discs. When cracks occur in the outer layer of the disc, the gelatin-like material found inside begins to ooze out. This process puts excess pressure on the spinal cord or spinal nerves and causes severe pain. Thus, not the entirety of the disc slips, but only the small area of the crack is dislodged from its proper place.
Am I Suffering from a Herniated or Bulging Disc?
Eventually, discs deteriorate, resulting in either a bulging or herniation. As time passes, discs dehydrate and their cartilage stiffens, causing the outer layer of the disc to bulge out. A bulging disc does not always affect the entire perimeter of a disc. However, at least a quarter or half of the disc’s circumference is generally affected. Only the outer layer of tough cartilage is affected when it comes to a bulging disc.
On the other hand, a herniated disc occurs when a crack in the tough outer layer of cartilage allows some softer inner cartilage to protrude out of the disc. Also called a ruptured disc or slipped disc, a herniated disc is not caused by an entire disc rupturing or slipping.
How do you know if you are suffering from a bulging or herniated disc? The best way to tell is by the pain level you are experiencing. As a herniated disc generally protrudes farther and irritates the nerve roots, its symptoms are more painful than a bulging disc. The irritation of a herniated disc is caused by the compression of the nerve or the painful inflammation of the nerve root.
What are the Different Disc Herniation Stages?
If you have a back pain condition, the symptoms will likely start small and gradually increase until you feel excessive back pain. There are four main stages of disc degeneration:
The first stage, degeneration, occurs when the disc loses its elasticity and becomes brittle with age.
Stage two, prolapse, occurs when tiny tears form in the outer fibrous ring of an intervertebral disc. These tears allow the gel-like central portion to bulge along with the tough fibrous outer layer.
Extrusion, stage three, is when part of the nucleus breaks through the tough outer layer but remains within the disc. Also known as a non-contained herniation or transligamentous herniation, an acute lumbar disc herniation is followed by sequestration.
In stage four, disc sequestration, the gel-like material breaks through the tough outer layer and leaks into the spinal canal, causing a free fragment. After all four stages are complete, you will feel full-fledged disc herniation symptoms and require chiropractic treatment.
How Does Chiropractic Care Address Disc Herniation?
Chiropractic care helps to relieve back pain and other herniated disc symptoms. After an initial assessment, your chiropractor can recommend the best treatment option for your situation.
Your Chiropractor Will Conduct an Initial Assessment
Before your treatment plan begins, your chiropractor will conduct an initial assessment. During this initial consultation, your chiropractor will examine your medical history, conduct a physical exam, and perform orthopedic and neurological tests. Even if you are only experiencing low back pain, your chiropractor will also examine your neck and other portions of the spinal column to evaluate the overall health of your spine. Similarly, if you are experiencing neck pain, your lower back will be evaluated as well.
Chiropractic Techniques for Herniated Discs
Chiropractors have several techniques to treat and relieve pain caused by herniated discs. While there are options for surgical chiropractic care, you can also receive nonsurgical treatments to ease back pain.
The flexion-distraction technique reduces herniated disc symptoms and offers back pain relief by reducing the pressure on your discs.
To conduct a flexion distraction, your chiropractor will use a specialized table to gently stretch the spine. They will isolate the affected area while slightly flexing the spine with a pumping rhythm. This treatment option is almost painless and allows the center of the intervertebral disc to assume its central position in the disc without excess pressure.
For the flexion-distraction to be successful, you must undergo a series of chiropractic care treatments alongside adjunctive ultrasound, muscle stimulation, physiotherapy, supplementation, and at-home treatments. Your chiropractor will monitor your progress throughout the entire process.
Often used for spinal conditions and disc problems, spinal manipulations are a type of chiropractic adjustments conducted under anesthesia. Luckily, the anesthesia puts the patient to sleep for only about six minutes, allowing your chiropractor to stretch and manipulate the area while the body is completely relaxed. Unlike the flexion-distraction technique, a spinal manipulation treatment plan requires only one to three sessions.
Pelvic Blocking Treatments
Herniated disc symptoms can also be treated through pelvic blocking techniques. Cushioned wedges placed under each side of the pelvis allow the use of gentle exercises to draw your disc away from the nerve it may be pressing on, easing spinal pain.
Additional Treatment Options
Chiropractors suggest you supplement the above treatment options with additional techniques to find relief. Such additional options include:
- 3D active traction;
- Laser therapy;
- Massage therapy;
- Ultrasound-guided injections.
These more conservative chiropractic treatment options target your herniated disc at its root cause and help manage its other symptoms.
Dr. Doerr is the Best Chiropractor in New Jersey for Treating Disc Herniation!
At the Bergen Chiropractic and Sports Rehabilitation Center, our chiropractic team, led by Dr. Gregory Doerr, follows the highest and most professional medical standards to provide superior chiropractic help. After all, our mission is to provide unparalleled patient care and services in a comfortable healing atmosphere. Contact us to learn more about our chiropractic services! Our chiropractic offices in Cliffside Park, Hackensack, and Fairfield, New Jersey, are ready to welcome you. Also, feel free to access our blog page for more information on chiropractic treatments!