You may have heard the term “slipped disc” used to describe a low back injury. Discs do not actually “slip”. Rather, they may herniate or bulge out from between the bones. A herniation is a displaced fragment of the centre part or nucleus of the disc that is pushed through a tear in the outer layer or annulus of the disc.
Pain results when irritating substances are released from this tear and also if the fragment touches or compresses a nearby nerve. Disc herniation has some similarities to degenerative disc disease and discs that herniate are often in an early stage of degeneration. Herniated discs are common in the low back or lumbar spine.
What causes discs to herniate?
Many factors decrease the strength and resiliency of the disc and increase the risk of disc herniation. Life style choices such as smoking, lack of regular exercise, and inadequate nutrition contribute to poor disc health. Poor posture, daily wear and tear, injury or trauma, and incorrect lifting or twisting further stress the disc. If the disc is already weakened, it may herniate with a single movement or strain such as coughing or bending to pick up a pencil.
How do I know if I have a disc herniation?
Herniated discs are most likely to affect people between the ages of 30 and 40. Disc herniations may be present without causing pain. The most common symptom will be pain in the area of the herniation that may radiate across the hips or into the buttocks. You may also experience numbness or pain radiating down your leg to the ankle or foot. If the herniation is large enough, you may notice weakness with extension of your big toe and you may be unable to walk on your toes or heels. In severe cases of lumbar disc herniation, you may experience changes in your bowel or bladder function and may have difficulty with sexual function.
How is a disc herniation treated?
Mild to moderate disc herniation can usually be treated conservatively with stretching, exercise therapy and chiropractic care. More advanced cases will often require some form of spinal decompression, such as traction or mechanical decompression, in conjunction with chiropractic care.
Occasionally, a herniation may be severe enough to warrant surgical intervention. These cases are usually reserved as a last resort when other forms of therapy have failed to relieve pain, or if there is significant compression of the spinal cord or nerves.
Slipped Disc Treatment
A slipped – or herniated – disc in the spine can lead to pain that can radiate to the thighs or buttocks. Poor posture, unhealthy lifestyle choices such as smoking or a lack of exercise, and trauma can lead to disc problems. Slipped disc treatment can help you to get back to normal quickly, alleviating pain and giving you back a full range of movement. Treatment with a chiropractor can also help you to avoid disc problems in the future by identifying your risk factors and creating an individualised plan to help you reduce or eliminate them.
What Treatments are Available for a Slipped Disc?
Rarely, severe symptoms will need surgical intervention to alleviate the pressure on the disc in the spine in order to treat the symptoms. However, the majority of cases can be treated conservatively with the aid of a chiropractor.
As established chiropractors, we are experts in treatment for slipped discs. After performing an initial assessment, a treatment plan will be worked out to help you get back to your normal pain-free lifestyle quickly.
The initial assessment will involve your chiropractor checking things such as whether your reflexes are still intact, whether you have any muscle wastage, and whether you have numbness or a loss of sensation in your limbs, particularly your legs. This allows us to assess the severity of your symptoms in order to formulate the best treatment plan.
Flexion-distraction techniques utilise a special table that stretches the spine whilst your chiropractor uses flexion techniques using their hands on the spine. This is followed by a diet and exercise plan you can perform at home to aid your recovery. This treatment should be painless and can help you return to a pain-free lifestyle rapidly. Manipulation techniques used by a chiropractor are just a part of your recovery from a disc herniation. It is important to follow your individualised care plan, which may include strengthening exercises and dietary changes in order to get the best out of your treatment. Studies have shown chiropractic treatment for a herniated disc to be superior to conventional physiotherapy or home treatments such as heat or standard exercises.
Exercises performed by chiropractors are gentle and should not result in much pain. Slipped disc treatment can help you return to an active and pain-free lifestyle and reduce any time you may need to take off work. Chiropractors can reduce the need for taking painkillers long term, whilst educating you as to how you can avoid requiring treatment for disc problems in the future.