Definition of Disc Herniation
A herniated disc occurs when the cushion between the vertebrae in the spine tears, and the contents begins to seep out into the spinal column. Generally, the tear isn't what causes the pain, and may even occur over time without any symptoms at all. The herniated disc will irritate and inflame the surrounding nerves and, as a result, pain or weakness in the arms or legs develops. The location of the damaged disc impacts the symptoms a patient experiences. For instance, those who have a herniated disc in the lumbar region of the spine may experience sciatica as a result of pressure being applied to the sciatic nerve. This causes numbness, weakness, pain or tingling in the leg or foot.
Causes of Disc Herniation
The discs help with flexibility, support, cushion and movement of the spine, but repeat wear and tear to these discs weaken their integrity. Therefore, the discs become more susceptible to a tear. In some cases, but less common, discs can rupture from a forceful injury. For instance, a heavy strain or an increase in pressure on a disc can lead to a rupture. Sports-related injuries, work injuries and auto accidents are known to cause disc herniations. Repeatedly stressing the discs or a sudden lifting action may lead to a herniated disc as well.
Diagnosing a Herniated Disc
The Chiropractors at Arlington Chiropractic Clinic will take a complete patient medical history and conduct a thorough examination. We will ask the patient questions related to work, past history, family history, lifestyle factors and physical activities that could contribute to disc injuries. Further diagnostic testing, such as x-rays or MRI studies, may be ordered if a disc injury is suspected.
Treatment of a Herniated Disc
Our chiropractors may recommend a patient receive spinal adjustments to help treat their disc injuries. By realigning the spine and restoring normal motion, pressure is relieved off of the injured disc, ultimately reducing pain and discomfort. Using mechanical traction therapy, the spine is stretched and discs and nerves become decompressed, which reduces pain and allows herniations to heal. Other modalities may help, too. For instance, ultrasound or cold therapy can target the disc and reduce swelling and irritation. Electrical stimulation may be used also. In some cases, our chiropractor will recommend certain lifestyle changes to reduce pain. For instance, being overweight increases the amount of pressure placed on a person's discs. Therefore, our chiropractor may recommend diet modifications and back-friendly exercises to reduce the amount of force being applied to the discs and joints in the spine. Improving a person's posture through exercises and manual manipulation can provide long-term benefits.