For years, when a patient complained of back pain, many medical professionals believed that the underlying cause was a “slipped” or “torn” disc. After many more years of research, we now know this is usually not the case.
Herniated Disc Problems: Disc problems are only a small portion of the causes of back pain and rarely require surgery to achieve pain relief. However, as a successful Chiropractor in Broomfield, Dr. Manteris can attest that disc problems can absolutely become disruptive to a patient’s overall health and well-being if not treated correctly.
What are spinal discs? The spinal discs are essentially ligaments (structures connecting bones) that attach to the top and bottom of each vertebra that stack up to make the spine. These rubbery discs provide shock absorption for the vertebrae, protect the spinal cord and ensure flexibility of the spine. The individual discs can be imagined as a jelly doughnut, with a softer center encased within a tougher exterior. The outer section is composed of a circle of ligament fibers, which in turn enclose the soft inner core of the disc and securely attach the disc to the spinal vertebrae above and below.
What are the most common disc problems? A disc “bulge” is a slight tear or tears in the outermost fibers of the tough exterior annulus fibrosus. These small tears can be painful for a short time, but usually heal quickly with rest and minimal treatment.
A disc protrusion or extrusion, also called a “herniation,” is a much more significant injury. It results from a complete tear of the fibers of an annulus, in turn causing some of the nucleus pulposus to leak through the tougher exterior casing of the disc. A herniation can be very painful and may even cause nerve compression, and in the most severe cases, compression of the spinal cord. Most herniated discs occur in the lumbar spine, or lower back, but they can also occur in your cervical spine/neck area.
The most common disc problem suffered by adults is degenerative disc disease, affecting more than 3 million people in the US each year. This occurs when the disc nucleus loses water and small tears develop in it. The body then forms osteophytes (bone spurs), along the edges of the vertebra and the disc space narrows.
We used to believe that this was a symptom of common “wear and tear” as we aged. Indeed, people in their 40’s and older make up the vast majority of people that experience disc issues. However, the most recent evidence shows that, most often, there is a hereditary link to the development of degenerative disc disease. Degenerative disc disease can potentially be caused by an injury or trauma to the back, neck or spine. People with physically demanding jobs also have a greater risk of developing back problems due to repetitive twisting, lifting, pulling, or bending. Additionally, a large amount of excess body weight can also cause extra stress on the discs in the lower back, potentially increasing the risk for developing degenerative disc disease.
What are the common signs and symptoms of disc problems? Some herniated discs cause no symptoms and go unnoticed for months, and even years. Most commonly, herniated discs irritate nearby nerves which can result in pain, numbness, or weakening in adjacent arms or legs. Some patients may also experience sharp or stabbing back and neck pain, stiffness, and tenderness of the spine and spinal muscles. It is important to remember that although pain medication may provide temporary relief, a professional Chiropractor like Dr. Manteris will be able to provide a comprehensive treatment plan to address the underlying causes of painful disc issues.
How can Chiropractic help treat my disc problem? In most circumstances, disc problems are easily treated conservatively. In the case of an acute injury, Dr. Manteris will set a goal of pain control, using different physical modalities and light, conservative spinal adjustments to fix the problem. Ice and heat therapy both have shown effectiveness in managing the pain of acute low-back injuries. Dr. Manteris will help you determine which is most effective for you so you can get back on your feet and moving as quickly and safely possible.
Chiropractic spinal adjustments have also been demonstrated to be a safe and effective tool in the management of disc problems. In most circumstances, spine surgery and injections are not necessary in the management of disc problems. If you are in need of a Chiropractor to help you with your spinal disc issues, Dr. Manteris will discuss all available treatment options with you and help you decide on the best course of action to help your body heal.