Pinched Nerve – Bulging Disc – Herniated Disc
Which is it?
Young Chiropractic Clinic successfully treats Disc Pain and Discomfort in Easley SC
What is a disc?
The spinal column or vertebral column, is made up of a series of bones which look like bony blocks, known as the vertebrae.
The spine is able to bend and twist because of these flexible, shock-absorbing cushions or discs that lay between each of the spinal bones (vertebrae). Each Disc, or what is medically refereed to as the intervertebral disc is a flat, round, biscuit-shaped cushionie area with a jelly-like center called the nucleus and a strong outer skin that is called the annuls.
Many times people speak of a Slipped Disc however in all reality a Spinal Disc can not slip out of place. The discs are very nicely and firmly attached to the spinal bone or vertebrae they lay between the bones. They can wear, split or herniate but they can not slip.
A normal, healthy disc is very strong. It is said to actually be stronger than the bone itself. If you have an injury with pressure from the surrounding bones, a compression injury in a healthy spine it is more likely to cause a crack or fracture of the bone rather than a disc injury. Over time as the disc goes through wear and tear called Degeneration, following cumulative strain from repeated bending, twisting, lifting and prolonged sitting, the strong fibres of the annulus can tear, allowing ‘leakage’ of the nucleus out of the centre of the disc. This is known as a disc herniation.
This ‘leaked’ material may then cause an inflammatory reaction and sometimes put pressure on the spinal nerve that runs next to the disc, resulting in leg pain (Sciatica), if it affects the discs in the lower back or, arm pain if it affects the discs in the neck.
You can also get pain from the disc even if there is no herniation, just ‘internal’ damage, but then you are less likely to get the typical signs of sciatica.
Is it a common problem?
The term ‘slipped disc’ is used quite frequently as a diagnosis of back pain, but contrary to popular belief, disc herniations are not a common problem.
The most common cause of sciatica is referred pain from the muscles, joints and ligaments of the spine. Not disc injuries (see Part II of Disc Injuries and Sciatica).
It is estimated that approximately 3-5% of patients who consult a physician with lower back pain do so as a result of a disc herniation.
The annual incidence is only in the region of 0.1 – 0.5% of the general population between the ages of 24 and 64 years and it is most commonly seen in the ages between 30 to 50 years.
Although not common, a disc injury can potentially be a very serious injury. It is the sort of injury that sometimes requires surgery but fortunately only in a small number of cases.
It is important to know that it isn’t the herniation per se that causes the pain, but the inflammation.
In a study where MRI scans were taken of people who were without symptoms, it was found that up to 4 in 10 people had herniated discs!
So, the good news is that it is not always necessary to remove the disc herniation by surgery!
However, surgery is sometimes necessary, especially if your bowel and bladder control is affected. These may be symptoms of a rare but important complication causing a so called cauda equina syndrome.
If you experience any changes in your bowel or bladder control or numbness in the ‘saddle’ area, you should consult the hospital as soon as possible. The symptoms are reversible when treated quickly. This is why it is so important not to delay treatment for disc injuries, especially when they can be treated without safely, without surgery or complication.
What can I do to Prevent Disc Injuries?
There are different degrees of injury ranging from mild tears on the outside of the disc to the more severe, disc herniation.
The risk of developing a disc herniation increases every time you bend forward, especially if you are holding a load and you sit whilst doing it.
Reduce the pressure on your discs:
- Avoid prolonged sitting, bending, twisting and carrying.
- Wear a support belt when you do manual work.
- Avoid prolonged driving.
Some of the risk factors for developing a disc injury are, if:
- You have had episodes of back pain in the past.
- You have poor physical fitness and poor core stability.
- You do a heavy manual job involving bending and lifting.
- You have a job involving prolonged sitting and vibration ie. driving.
- You smoke.
If your back and stomach muscles are strong, you bend correctly and you sit correctly, you will protect the spinal structures, including the discs.
If you exercise regularly, it is also important to avoid exercises that involve repeated bending and twisting, especially whilst sitting.
Sit-ups and twisting stretches of the back are not as good as you might think!
Chiropractors do treat disc herniations and many scientific studies have shown that a high proportion of patients find relief with this kind of treatment. It has also been shown that Chiropractic treatment is superior to the application of heat, exercises, postural education and also conventional physiotherapy.
A study published in the very prestigious scientific journal, Spine, in 2006 showed excellent results of Chiropractic manipulation in the treatment of disc injuries and sciatica!
At the Young Chiropractic Easley SC, we start by properly diagnosing your injury with in depth testing and develop a care plan for long term relief based on your history, x-rays, and an indepth motion study x-ray analysis to find the very best treatment for you. To schedule your complimentary consultation to find out if Dr. Jay Young can help you and feels you would be a good candidate for care at our Easley Chiropractic Office
How long will it take to get better?
Our Easley Chiropractor, Dr. Young, will discuss with you the frequency of visits required for treatment. The healing process takes time and varies from person to person, often depending on the severity of the condition and the history of the complaint.
However, how active and compliant you are in your own treatment will influence your recovery time.