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Are Chiropractors Good For Herniated Discs?

April 27th, 2022 by
Category: Back pain Dr. Brooke Evans Herniated Disc

Spinal prop showing herniated disc

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 that is soft and gel-like, called the ‘nucleus.’ The discs absorb shock, aims to keep the spine stable and allows the entire body to move freely.

A herniated disc is when the inner gel-like layer (nucleus) begins to protrude outwards, through a tear in the annulus and puts lots of pressure on the spinal nerves passing through.

What is the difference between a bulging disc and a herniated disc?

A bulging disc involves the inner layer of the disc protruding outwards, but it remains contained in the outer layer. 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 in that location.

What causes a herniated disc?

A herniated disc can occur due to an array of reasons. These include:

  • Age-related, wear and tear on the spine – commonly referred to as disc degeneration. Disc degeneration creates a pre-existing weakness in the outer layer (annulus) of the disc.
  • Micro-trauma and repetitive stresses to the spine over time. For example, poor posture.
  • Sudden trauma to your body. For example, a fall or car accident.
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Lifestyle factors. For example, increased weight gain and chronic smoking

What are the symptoms of a herniated disc?

Symptoms for a disc herniation vary greatly, depending on the position and the severity of the herniated disc. A disc herniation may initially present as asymptomatic however, many people experience a whole range of symptoms that may continue to develop overtime.

Cervical (neck) disc herniation:

  • Sharp / shooting pain into the upper back, shoulder blades, arms, hands, and fingers
  • Numbness or tingling sensation into the upper back, shoulder blades, arms, hands, and fingers
  • Muscle weakness
  • Constant neck pain and discomfort

Lumbar (lower back) disc herniation:

  • Sharp / shooting pain into the lower back, buttock, or legs
  • Numbness or tingling sensation into the lower back, buttock, or legs
  • Muscles weakness
  • Constant lower back pain and discomfort
  • Loss of bowel and bladder control. This is also known as cauda equina syndrome (CES). CES is when the bundle of nerves at the end of your spinal cord in your lower back become damaged. This can severely affect movement, sensation and function of the bowel and bladder. This is rare but does require urgent medical attention.

How is a herniated disc diagnosed?

A herniated disc typically has a particular presentation and can be diagnosed after a comprehensive history is conducted and a thorough physical examination has taken place. To evaluate the severity of a disc herniation, an MRI may be indicated. Fortunately, the majority of herniated discs do not require surgery. In some severe cases, surgery may be the best treatment option available.

What activities should you avoid if you have a herniated disc?

You should avoid vigorous running or jumping exercises, heavy lifting of any sort, repetitive bending, twisting, or turning. These types of movements will continue to cause repeated micro-trauma and stress on the spine and further inflame the disc herniation and its surrounding structures.

What exercises are good/safe for herniated discs?

A range of movements are good and safe for herniated discs; however, you should stop if they aggravate or cause any pain or discomfort to your body. Spinal decompression is one of the most effective and is a traction-based exercise and movement that is appropriate for disc herniations/disc bulges. This will help to relieve pressure at the level of the disc herniation and alleviate some pain in the low back.

Positional decompression exercise

Child's pose exercise

How can a Chiropractor help a herniated disc?

For those interested, Chiropractic care may help assist in relieving pain from herniated discs. On occasions, disc herniations will get better in their own time and generally resolve in 4-6 weeks. However, Chiropractic care may help condition the body to assist in reducing the possibility of them occurring in the beginning. Chiropractic care may also assist in reducing the re-occurrence of injuries and have the body moving, feeling, and functioning at its very best.

If you choose to see a Chiropractor, they will complete a comprehensive history process and perform a thorough physical examination including postural, neurological, orthopaedic, and muscular testing, sending for further radiographical testing if indicated. At Total Health Chiropractic, we will be able to work with you to cultivate a personalised and comprehensive step-by-step plan to reduce pain and improve movement and function, in turn reducing the risk for re-injury.

Chiropractic care can include:

  • Spinal adjustments
  • Muscle relaxation techniques
  • Home stretches and exercises
  • Postural correction

Disc herniations are a common condition that Chiropractors treat in practice. If you choose to see a Chiropractor, they will be able to provide appropriate recommendations to reduce pain and get you moving, feeling, and functioning better overall.


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