Visiting a Chiropractor for Disc Bulge or Herniation
The Structure and Function of the Spinal Column and Spinal Cord
The skeletal structure that runs down the centre of your back and neck, which is also known as the spinal column, is made up of 33 bones called vertebrae. In between the vertebrae are discs made up of cartilage that hold the bones together, act as shock absorbers for the spine and allow for slight motion of your back and neck. The spinal column enables stiffening of the human body and attachment for the pelvic girdles and countless muscles, which supports the transmission of body weight when we walk or stand. Perhaps the most important function of the spinal column is protection of the spinal cord – the long, fragile tube-like structure that begins at the brain stem and continues down, almost to the end of the spine. The spinal cord is comprised of bundles of nerve axons that form pathways that are responsible for transmitting messages between the brain and the rest of the body.
Disc Bulge or Herniation is Becoming More Common
Approximately 2% of people suffer from a herniated disc each year and it is the leading cause of neck, arm, back and leg pain, which is often referred to generally as sciatica. While a disc herniation can happen at any point along the spinal column, it’s most common in the lower back and neck, as opposed to the middle of the back.
Common Causes of Disc Herniation and the Symptoms
Victoria family chiropractor Dr. Stephanie Louie sees a lot of patients suffering from disc injuries at Mind Body Spine. “Discs can become injured from simple overuse injuries, such as prolonged sitting or chronic poor posture, which may lead to a disc herniation or bulged disc. There are also other risk factors that will increase the likelihood of this type of injury including: being overweight, lifting, bending and twisting.”
The symptoms associated with a bulged disc or herniated disc can be pain, burning, numbness, tingling and weakness. This pain can travel or radiate into your arms and fingers if there is an injury in the neck or into the legs and toes if the bulge or herniation is in your low back. Symptoms can vary and can range from excruciating and searing pain to no pain at all. Some people complain of having to brace themselves before sneezing and coughing while others may have problems with their bowels such as constipation or diarrhea or their bladder, such as urinary incontinence. Because the symptoms can vary so greatly from little or no pain at all to the symptoms listed above, it is always recommended to get a check-up by a qualified professional.
Chiropractic Treatment of Disc Bulge or Herniation
There are many treatments for herniated or bulged discs. “At our Victoria Chiropractic clinic, Mind Body Spine, we see consistent and fantastic results by decompressing the discs using a variety of treatment modalities, including corrective chiropractic adjustments, spinal decompression and spinal rehabilitation. We find that it is not just one modality that gets patients back into good health, but rather a combination of in-office treatments and at-home rehabilitation specifically designed to relieve you of your symptoms, that get the best results. Once this has been accomplished, it’s important to find strategies to prevent future recurrence of the same injury.”
Preventative Steps to Avoid Disc Bulge or Herniation
Whether you’re trying to prevent recurrence of the injury, or simply want to lower your risk of suffering a herniated disc, it’s important to ensure you’re following strategies recommended by healthcare professionals. It’s not always possible to prevent a disc bulge, but here are some actions you can take to reduce your chances:
- Use proper lifting techniques, particularly with heavier loads. Most of us have seen the WorkSafe posters at your places of employment… Don’t bend at the waist. Bend your knees while keeping your back straight. Leverage the strength of your leg muscles to help support the load as you lift. This doesn’t just apply to heavy loads, even lighter loads lifted in the wrong manner can lead to herniation.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight puts particular pressure on the lower back. Maintaining a healthy weight with exercise and nutrition will go a long way to support your body’s strength and wellbeing.
- Exercise and stretch regularly. Yoga and other low-impact fitness activities that focus on stretching, lengthening and strengthening the body – particularly the core area, including your back and abdomen – are great for supporting your back health.
- Wear properly supported footwear. Whether it’s those 3” high heels to match the dress, or those 1” dress shoes you wear to the business mixer, or those thin plastic flip-flops you live in during the summer months, you may want to limit the time you spend in footwear which throws your spine out of alignment. Instead, opt for shoes that are flat with built-in support which will help your body stay balanced and aligned.
- Stop smoking. Smoking can lead to depletion or weakening of cartilaginous structures in the body, including your spinal discs, making them susceptible to rupture. Consider quitting that smoking habit and your whole body – not just your spine – will thank you.
- Regular chiropractic treatments. Poorly aligned structures in the body are one of the key triggers for disc herniation. Whether you’re trying to heal from a herniated disc or trying to prevent one, regular treatment from your chiropractor can support your goals.
At Mind Body Spine, Dr. Stephanie Louie’s primary focus is on treating your pain and discomfort at the source so you can get back to living your best life. If you need treatment for disc herniation or support with other alignment or mobility issues, please contact us to book a treatment consultation today.