Can Chiropractic Help With A Bulging or Herniated Disc?
A bulging disc is often thought of as a normal part of the aging process. It may causes pain and decrease mobility. Athletes and people who have very physical jobs are often prone to bulging discs as well as other disc issues. Not getting enough water and nourishment to the disc can also cause it to become weakened. Chiropractic has been proven to be an effective treatment for bulging disc and the associated pain.
A herniated disc is a relatively common condition that can occur anywhere along the spine, but most often affects the lower back or neck region. Herniated discs are typically caused by overuse injuries or trauma to the spine; however, disc conditions can also develop as a result of the normal aging process. It is also known that there is a genetic factor that contributes to the development of disc degeneration and herniated disc.
WHAT ARE BULGING AND HERNIATED DISCS?
As we age, the spinal discs gradually lose fluid volume. This process starts at about age 30 and progresses slowly, over time. Bulging discs are often thought to be the same as herniated discs but that is incorrect. A herniated disc involves a crack in the disc’s outer layer. This is called an annulus. Typically, a small part of the disc is affected, allowing the soft material that makes up the nucleus pulposus to protrude. This is different from a bulging disc because, unlike a herniated disc, there is no crack. The disc bulges out of the space but it doesn’t crack and no material protrudes. It also affects more area of the disc than a herniated disc.
The most common causes of herniated disc are:
- Wear and tear: Discs dry out and aren’t as flexible as they once were.
- Repetitive movements: Work, lifestyle, and certain sports activities that put stress on the spine, especially the lower back, further weaken an already vulnerable area.
- Lifting the wrong way: Never lift while bent at the waist. Proper lifting entails lifting with your legs and a straight back.
- Injury: High-impact trauma can cause the disc to bulge, tear or rupture.
- Obesity: Carrying excess weight puts an undue amount of strain on the spine.
- Genetics: There are some genes that are more commonly present in individuals with disc degeneration. More research is needed to investigate the role of these genes—they could be targets of biological treatment in the future.
While a herniated disc is likely more painful, a bulging disc can also cause pain that can increase over time. Symptoms of a bulging disc include:
- Tingling, numbness, or muscle weakness in one or both legs
- Changes in bowel or bladder function
- Hyper reflexivity in one or both legs
- Paralysis below the waist
- Deep pain over the shoulder blade or in the shoulder area
- Pain when moving the neck or low back
- Radiating pain in the fingers, forearm, and upper arm
Bulging and herniated discs are often diagnosed by a combination of several methods. A physical exam, along with a full history of the problem will often lead to tests like MRI, x-ray, and myelogram with CT scan. From there, your doctor will work with you to find the best course of treatment.
How can chiropractic help with disc issues?
Chiropractic is a preferred treatment method for many patients with bulging and herniated discs because it is non-invasive and does not involve drugs or injections. Once you have your diagnosis, you and your chiropractor can work together to find the best way to treat your condition.
Your chiropractor will want to verify your diagnosis so you may go through questions about your medical history, a physical examination, and tests that involve nerve function, reflexes, and muscle tone. Your chiropractor may also order MRI or x-ray as well as other diagnostic testing in order to get a better picture of what is going on.
One of the most popular features of chiropractic care is the whole body approach to wellness. Your chiropractor will look at your entire spine, not just the area that is painful. They will treat your entire spine and provide self-care direction, exercise, and nutritional recommendations so that you can continue to progress and live pain free. Your pain and spinal problems could be the result of spinal misalignment so your chiropractor will seek to get to the root of the problem and treat your entire spine so that you have less pain, your spine can heal, and you have better mobility.
Through focused chiropractic adjustments, your chiropractor will gently use low force techniques to relieve the painful symptoms by manipulating your spine around and at the disc that is bulging or herniated. Using cervical or lumbar traction machines can aid in helping to open the joints of the spine up to take pressure off of the disc and allow for the bulge and herniation to absorb back to where it needs to be.
Chiropractic treatment for bulging or herniated discs is safe, effective, and long lasting. If you are having back pain from a disc problem, you owe it to yourself to seek quality chiropractic care so that you can enjoy less pain, improved mobility, and better quality of life.
Cory T. O’Lear-Zebroski, D.C.