A slipped disc is a common term for a disc that has herniated. Due to their strong anchoring, discs don’t slip, but they can bulge or herniate. Intervertebral discs are located between each of the vertebrae in your spine. These spinal discs have an outer layer, known as the annulus and an inner layer which is soft and gel-like called the nucleus. The discs absorb shock and aim to keep the spine stable. This allows the entire body to move freely.
A bulging or herniated disc occurs when the nucleus begins to protrude outwards, through a tear in the annulus and can put pressure on the spinal nerves passing through.
Difference between a bulging disc and a herniated disc
A bulging disc involves the inner layer of the disc protruding outwards, but remains contained. A herniated disc involves an extra degree of protrusion. The inner layer of the disc spills out of its protective casing into the spinal canal and can cause compression onto the spinal nerves.
Causes of herniated discs
A herniated disc can occur due to a range of reasons. These include:
- Age – related to wear and tear on the spine. Commonly referred to as disc degeneration. Disc degeneration creates a pre-existing weakness in the outer layer (annulus) or the disc
- Micro-trauma and repetitive stresses to spine over time.
- A single significant trauma
- Sedentary Lifestyle. Sitting long term puts a lot of stress on the discs. A lack of movement
and exercise is also detrimental to disc health.
- Lifestyle factors such as increased weight gain and chronic smoking
Symptoms of herniated discs
Symptoms may vary depending on the position and severity of the herniated disc. A disc herniation
may initially present as asymptomatic. Many people experience a whole range of symptoms that
develop over time:
- Back/Neck Pain
- Leg/foot Pain – from a lumbar disc (lower back)
- Arm/Hand Pain – from a cervical disc (neck)
- Muscle weakness or spasm
- Decreased mobility/range of motion
- Burning, tingling and numbness – mild to severe, located close to pain source or radiates out
- Sharp/shooting pain or numbness or tingling sensations into the upper back, shoulder
blades, arms, hands and fingers
- Sharp/shooting pain or numbness or tingling sensations into the lower back, buttocks, thigh,
leg and foot
- Loss of bowel or bladder function. This is also known as Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES). CES is
when nerves at the end of your spinal cord become damaged, severely affecting movement, sensation and function of the bowel or bladder. CES is rare but requires urgent medical
Diagnosing a herniated disc
A comprehensive history is conducted and thorough physical examination is done. The need for
medical imaging may be discussed. Fortunately, majority of herniated discs do not require surgery.
With good management they can improve over time, with average relief timed within 4-6 weeks.
However, surgery may be necessary if your condition continues to deteriorate.
Activities to avoid when suffering from a disc injury
- Vigorous running or jumping exercises
- Heavy lifting of any sort
- Repetitive bending, twisting or turning
- Repeated micro-trauma and stress on the spine creating further inflammation to herniated
disc and surrounding structures
How can Chiro Help
- Assist in relieving pain
- Improve joint function to help recovery and prevent further deterioration
- Assist in reducing re-occurrence of the injury
- Improve your mobility and back strength
Care may include
- Spinal adjustments and soft tissue therapy
- Stretches and exercises for home
- Postural correction
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