Herniated disc? Chiropractic can help!
What if we told you, that you could avoid the surgeons knife to treat your herniated disc? What if treatment did not cost an arm, a leg or your spine. What if prolonged recovery from surgery could be avoided? What if you could avoid countless appointments with a physical therapist for weeks to several months which is required after the surgery? What if natural movement of your spine could be restored without painful surgery, and what if we told you it is possible to avoid all of the above by seeing your chiropractor?
Chiropractic care is a nonsurgical treatment option for herniated discs. But what is a chiropractor’s approach to treating a herniated disc? Before we get to that, we need a quick review of what a herniated disc is.
What Is a “Slipped” Disc? Is It the Same as a Herniated Disc?
With the exception of the first 2 vertebrae in the neck—the atlas (C1) and the axis (C2)—there is an intervertebral disc between each of the 22 vertebra of the spine. Discs act as a shock absorber and a shock distributor, and provide flexibility.
Imagine if you jump up and down. What would happen to the stack of bony vertebrae that make up the spine without the cushioning and support of these discs? Now, move your back from side to side. Again, you can visualize the give and take of the discs between the vertebrae. Without these discs, your spine couldn’t function.
Intervertebral discs don’t really “slip”—although the phrase “slipped disc” has come into popular usage to refer to bulging, ruptured, or herniated discs. Throughout this article, we’ll refer to herniated discs, which is the more correct term.
Your discs are made up of the annulus fibrosus (the tough outer layer) and the nucleus pulposus (which contains a soft, gelatin-like center). When cracks occur in the outer layer of the disc, the material inside of the disc can begin to push out. Numerous factors can cause a disc to herniate.
For example, there may be too much stress on the disc due to poor posture or from being overweight. In fact. a heriated disc can be caused by a combination of factors or a physical injury.
Chiropractors consider the body to be a roadmap of nerve pathways leading to and from the spine. The spine is the neurological super highway which transmits all the motor, sensory and autonomic functions to and from the brain.
Chiropractors believe that the spinal bones must be in perfect alignment in order to enjoy optimal nerve function, and therefore health, throughout the body. Vertebrae are the bones which make up the spine and are subject to individual movement. When a vertebra is out of place, it is said to be subluxated. Vertebral subluxations are the focus of most chiropractic treatment.
Chiropractors evaluate the entire spine. Even if you only have lower back pain, your chiropractor will examine your neck, too, for example. He or she wants to see how well your spine is functioning overall, and remember: What happens in one area of your spine can influence other parts of your spine and/or body.
After reviewing this information, your chiropractor can determine if you have an intervertebral disc injury. The type of disc injury you have will determine what treatments your chiropractor will use to address your symptoms. When a known intervertebral herniation is being targeted, the Gonstead chiropractor will use specific adjustments to provide case-specific treatment.
Chiropractors see surgical patients who present with back pain after having gone through surgery. Their disc may be partially or fully surgically removed and/or the vertebrae are fused together and the problem they originally had is still there because the vertebrae that caused the herniation is still misaligned. Many times this herniation in the neck is due to a lower misalignment that may be left unaddressed which caused a disc to herniate higher. It is important to address the whole spine to correct all misalignments that could be contributing factors.
Most intervertebral disc injuries are related to a herniated disc, and your chiropractor can provide you with various treatment options to address your pain and other symptoms.
To treat a herniated disc, your chiropractor will develop a treatment plan that will include spinal manipulation—also known as adjustments—and other chiropractic techniques to help ease your herniated disc symptoms. This will be an individualized treatment plan, but it may include manual therapy and therapeutic exercises.
The specifics of what are in your treatment plan are particular to your pain, level of activity, overall health, and what your chiropractor thinks is best. As with any treatment option, don’t hesitate to ask questions about what chiropractic treatments are being recommended and why. We want to make sure you understand what will be done and how it can help relieve your pain. Chiropractic treatment is safe and effective for most patients.
In addition to the spinal adjustment the chiropractor will also pump the disc This is a common chiropractic technique, which is used to help address herniated disc symptoms. This allows the chiropractor to isolate the affected area while slightly “flexing” the spine using a pumping action.
There is usually no pain associated with this treatment. Instead, the gentle pumping to the painful area allows the center of the intervertebral disc (called the nucleus pulposus) to assume its central position in the disc. Flexion-distraction may also improve disc height.
This technique can help move the disc away from the nerve, reducing inflammation of the nerve root, and eventually any associated pain and inflammation into the leg (if there is any related to your herniated disc).. Gradually, specific exercises and nutritional recommendations will be incorporated into your treatment plan. Your chiropractor will monitor you throughout the treatment plan.
Misconceptions about Chiropractic
- It’s a misconception that chiropractors “pop a disc back in place” using forceful adjustments. The “pop” sound comes from the release of gas under pressure within a joint. It is similar to the sound heard when opening a can of soda.
- Another misconception is that chiropractic care involves a few quick treatments, which can “fix” your disc. Instead, as explained above, chiropractors treat herniated discs using gentle low-force techniques.
Your chiropractor will develop a treatment plan for your herniated disc, and if your symptoms do not improve with chiropractic care techniques, your chiropractor may recommend and comanage your condition with you being referred to a spine specialist. This will ensure you are getting the best treatment for your condition and speed your recovery.