Anyone that has suffered the pain of a herniated disc has asked themselves at one point or another “should I see a chiropractor for help?” Chiropractors offer a nonsurgical approach when it comes to the treatment of this condition. They have several methods to pick from, and they will determine which one is best for your individual needs based upon their examination of your neck and spine.
What is a Herniated Disc?
All vertebrae, except for the first two within the neck, have a disc between them. This disc absorbs shock, distributes shock, and provides flexibility. Without the cushioning effects of these discs, the spine cannot function properly. Whether jumping up and down or simply moving the back from side to side, they play a very important role.
The best place to begin is by understanding the proper terms to use when suffering from back pain. The term “slipped disc” has become a popular way to refer to lumbar disc herniation, although the disc does not actually slip out of place. When someone mentions a slipped disc they are actually talking about a bulging disc in the lower back, a ruptured disc, or a herniated disc.
Each disc is constructed of a strong outer layer called the annulus fibrosus along with a soft, gel like center referred to as the nucleus pulposus. If a crack occurs in the outer layer, the nucleus pulposus can push out. This is a herniated disc. Several factors may cause this condition.
- Stress caused by poor posture
- Stress from being overweight
- A physical injury
- A combination of any of the above
A chiropractor can help you find a solution for your herniated disc symptoms by assessing your condition. During the first appointment, they will review your medical history with you as well as do a physical exam and perform neurological and orthopaedic tests. These tests will tell the chiropractor several things.
- Are the reflexes working properly?
- Are the nerves sending messages to the brain?
- Is there any sign of muscle loss?
- Do you have any loss of sensation?
The chiropractor will check the entire spine and carefully exam your posture. An MRI or X-ray may be needed to help diagnose the condition correctly. They will also examine the neck when there is lower back pain to see if the spine is functioning correctly because a condition that is causing pain to one part of the spine can easily affect other parts of the spine or body.
Once the chiropractor gathers all of this information, they can determine whether or not you have a herniated disc and decide on a solution to the problem. The exact type of injury you have will tell them what treatment to use. Not all patients are good candidates for certain types of chiropractic care.
Once a herniated disc is diagnosed, the chiropractor can offer various options when it comes to treating the pain and other related issues. Your treatment plan might include spinal manipulation along with techniques designed to ease the symptoms. Therapeutic exercises may also be recommended.
Your individual treatment plan will be determined by specifics such as your level of activity, the amount of pain you are experiencing, and your overall health. If you have any questions about the recommended course of action, don’t be afraid to ask them to explain it to you thoroughly.
A common treatment used is the flexion-distraction technique. This option involves a specially designed table that stretches the spine or “distracts” it. The chiropractor then locates the affected area and flexes the spine with a pumping rhythm.
This treatment is not painful. It allows the nucleus pulposus in the center of the afflicted vertebrae to assume its natural position within the disc. It can also improve the height of the disc. This technique works to move the disc off of the nerve which reduces the nerve root inflammation. As a result any related pain or inflammation in the leg will also eventually be reduced.
Flexion-distraction requires a series of treatments along with muscle stimulation, adjunctive ultrasound, supplementation, physiotherapy, and at home treatments. Eventually, nutritional recommendations and specific exercises will also be added to this treatment plan. Your chiropractor will monitor your progress throughout the entire procedure.
MUA, or manipulation under anesthesia, is the ideal treatment for certain spinal issues. It is done in a hospital or ambulatory care center. You are only sedated for about six minutes. During this time the chiropractor can manipulate and stretch the affected area which will be in a relaxed state. This solution takes one to three sessions over a two to four week time frame.
Pelvic Blocking Techniques
Symptoms of a herniated disc can also be treated with pelvic blocking techniques. This solution requires the use of cushioned wedges that are positioned under the pelvis on each side. Gentle exercises may be used as well. These actions will pull the disc away from the nerve it is pressing against.
Misconceptions about Chiropractic Care of a Herniated Disc
A chiropractor will not actually pop your disc back into place. Many people believe this can be done through the use of forceful adjustments. The idea comes from the popping sound you hear as gas is released from within the joints. Another common misconception is that chiropractic care for a herniated disc requires only a couple of quick sessions in order to fix the problem. Your chiropractor can treat this issue, but it will take time.
A chiropractor can help you with a herniated disc by alleviating the pain through a series of treatments. After a thorough examination, they will pinpoint the area of concern and develop a plan specifically for your issues. If the pain continues, they will be able to recommend your next course of action.