Herniated Disc and Bulging Disc Treatment
Often people refer to the sharp, nervy, and referred pain of a disc herniation to a "pinched nerve" or a "slipped disc" Well, as the disc itself does not actually slip, the gelatenous nucleus of the disc can protrude, bulge, herniate, or sequester out which in fact can and does cause a nerve root to become pinched.
Vertebral discs are the shock absorbers between vertebre and further add to the mobility and flexibility of the spine. These discs are made up of an outer portion, called the annulus, and an inside portion, called the nucleus pulposus. When we are younger, these discs are very gelatenous and plyable. However, as we age the ourter most annulus becomes more fibrotic while the inner nucleus is still soft. This is where the outer fibers can eventually fail and allow the inner portion of the disc to rupture through. The disc eventually becomes completely dense and fibrotic into our 50s and 60s and you typically don't hear of this condition in older populations.
What Are the Risk Factors for a Disc Herniation?
- Age and Gender: Disc Herniations or Protrusions are more common in men than women and typically affect individuals between 30-50 years old.
- Improper Lifting
- Excess Weight
- Repetitive Lifting, Bending, and Twisting
- Poor Posture
- Sedentary Lifestyle
Diagnosing a Disc Herniation
Your Chiropractor will perform several orthopedic and neurological tests to determine where you pain or symptoms are origniating from. In the case of a compressed nerve due to a disc protrusion, patients will oftentimes present with pain, numbness, tingling, and/or weakness into the arm or leg. Positive exam findings will also lead to determining the pobability of a disc protrusion. When a patient presents with bowel or bladder changes, numbness around the groin and upper thighs, or significant extremity weakness they will be referred out immediately to a neurosurgeon. Further imaging may also be ordered through our Chiropractors and may consist of an MRI or X-Rays. In older populations, a less expensive X-Ray may be the first option since degenerative bony changes may be causing pressure on a nerve root.
Aside from the obvious surgery and/or cortizone injections offered by traditional medicine there are also some natural options which should be the first line of defence for treatment. These include:
Corrective Exercises: Your Chiropractor or Physical Therapist will assess muscle and spinal imbalances for helping to improve biomechanics and and spinal curves.
Physical Therapy Modalities: Electric Stimulation, Hot/Cold Therapy, Far Infrared Sauna, and Pulsed Electromagnetic Field (PEMF) Therapy.
Spinal Decompression Therapy: Specific therapy for disc bulges/herniations providing oftentimes immediate pain relief. This form of traction mechanically decompresses the discs while "pumping" the spine with differing levels of pull. The goal is to get the disc to centralize and take pressure off the compress nerve. Treatments can last up to 30 minutes and 20-25 sessions are usually recommended within a 5-8 week period.
- Eat a low inflammatory diet
- Increase movement such as walking