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Disc Herniations and Chiropractic


What is Disc Herniation?


Disc herniations (also known as "bulging disc") are common causes of low back pain that respond well to chiropractic care. The gelatinous core of the disc (located between the vertebrae providing protective cushioning, lubrication and shock absorption), the nucleus pulposus, pushes against the outer fibrous casing of the disc, the annulus, which can trigger a pain response when the disc pushes against certain types of nerve roots or has an annual tear. Back or neck pain can arise from a ruptured disc or this tear in the annulus fibrosis. If the protruding disc presses on a nerve, pain, numbness, or weakness may occur in the area of the body that is served by that nerve.


In the chiropractic sense, the biggest connection we refer to is the connection of the brain and body through the network of your nervous system. The spine houses the spinal cord which then branches into nerves that must exit between the vertebrae of your spine before reaching any other part of your body.


Most people experience gradual changes in the spine over the span of many years with hours of daily activity spent putting stress on their bodies. Examples are job-related heavy lifting, poor posture, computer work, lack of activity, prolonged sitting and much more.


Other patients experience sudden lifestyle changes or traumatic injury that cause shifts in the spine such as having a baby, a slip-and-fall or car accidents.




How is a Herniated Disc Diagnosed


An MRI is the test of choice for the diagnosis of a herniated disc. A CT scan (CAT scan) with myelography (a spinal injection of contrast dye) may sometimes be helpful for visualization of the bony anatomy of the spinal column and may be necessary for patients unable to undergo an MRI scan. Electrical tests such as electromyography (EMG) may also help confirm injury to a nerve caused by disc herniation or bulge.


Symptoms of Disc Herniation


Lumbar Herniation

  • Lower back pain

  • Sciatica: Pain in nerve traveling down the leg(s)

  • Leg pain that is sharp, shocking, radiating.

  • Numbness, tingling, or weakness

  • Pain in front and back of thigh, glute, calf, foot

  • Foot drop: Difficulty lifting the foot when walking

  • Pain that worsens with movement or bending

  • forward at the waist or to the side

  • Increased pain with coughing or sneezing

Cervical Herniation

  • Neck pain

  • Pain, weakness, or numbness in upper back, shoulders, arms or fingers

  • Pain described as shocking, burning, tingling, dull, or sharp

  • Difficulty grasping or holding weight

  • Pain that worsens with movement

  • Increased pain with coughing or sneezing


Disc Herniation Treatment Options

Treatment for herniated discs is often conservative and nonsurgical and include options such as medication, activity modification, physical therapy, and steroid injections. Patients may limit the amount of bending, lifting and twisting in order to decrease the amount of stress and pressure on the lumbar spine, which may increase the pressure on the affected nerve root. Medication for slipped disc treatment can include anti-inflammatory drugs, analgesics, and muscle relaxants. Some patients may also benefit from an anti-inflammatory spinal injection as part of their herniated disc treatment to lessen nerve swelling and irritation caused by the damaged disc.


Benefits of Chiropractic for Herniation


When standing straight, a healthy spine can withhold an incredible amount of weight without damaging the discs. Over time repetitive stress, inactive lifestyle, poor nutrition and age can lead to muscle imbalance and changes in the spine.

Chiropractic can help relieve herniation related pain and reduce the chances of reoccurrence by focusing on keeping the spine in its natural healthy state.


Step One: Relief


Chiropractic adjustments help with spinal decompression which reduces the pressure on the discs and nerves. The adjustments help to allow the nerves to function correctly which helps to accelerate the body's natural healing process.


Tip: Avoid movements that cause more pain, forward bending, high impact exercise, and torso twists. Use ice after an exacerbation to reduce inflammation and pain. Back braces will help to provide support. TENS units can be used for relief.


Step Two: Stabilization


After the patient is out of the pain stage, we continue to work on alignment correction, joint health, and mobilization and strengthening. Exercises and stretches used to strengthen specific muscles will help to stabilize the spine and reduce pressure off discs. Lifestyle changes such as changing work ergonomics, maintaining a healthy weight, adequate nutrition, and muscle strengthening all support a healthy neuromuscular system. Remember: Chiropractic adjustments allow the body to instantly HEAL better by allowing the nerves to function properly. Patients with a new exacerbation may experience initial soreness after the adjustment but often feel much relief the following day.


Our goal is to help every patient recover as fully and quickly – and with as few side effects – as possible. In many cases, surgery is not required. However, for patients who do require surgical herniated disc treatment here in the Houston area, our surgeons are often able to use the latest minimally invasive techniques to access the spine with less risk and muscle damage. Hospital stays, when necessary, are often short and most of our patients are able to promptly return to work, gentle exercise and other day-to-day activities. Throughout the recovery process, we also offer our patients access to individualized physical therapy and other rehabilitative care services.


Herniated Disc Prevention


  • Avoid wearing high-heeled shoes

  • Exercise regularly

  • Stretch regularly

  • Use proper lifting techniques

  • Maintain a healthy weight

  • Use proper posture


Tilson Chiropractic has significant experience in the treatment of herniated discs. Contact Dr. Tilson today to see how you can start on the path to recovery! 630-428-2299



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