Does your back hurt when you sit? Are you feeling pain, numbness, or tingling in your legs? Do certain movements, like bending forward or even cough, cause you agony? A herniated disc could be your problem. Seeing a spine specialist, like the professionals at Freedom Health Centers may be the key to preventing any further damage. Maybe a chiropractor can treat your herniated disc.
WHAT IS A HERNIATED DISC?
A herniated disc is one of the most common injuries to the back. While most herniated discs occur in the lower back, they can happen anywhere along the spine.
For a moment, try to picture your spinal column. From your neck all the way down to your lower back are bones, called vertebrae, stacked on top of each other. Between each one is a disc, which helps absorb shock from your normal daily activities. Each disc is made up of a gelatinous inner portion and a tough outer ring. Injuries can sometimes cause the inner part of the disc to bulge out of the tough outer ring, which is known as a herniated disc.
In some people, a herniated disc will not cause problems, and can be treated with over-the-counter pain medicines and exercises. In others, however, a herniated disc can be very painful and can lead to other serious conditions.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE A HERNIATED DISC?
Because a herniated disc can occur anywhere along the spinal column, the signs and symptoms of the injury can vary. However, there are some common symptoms that can help you recognize if you may be experiencing complications from a herniated disc. Those symptoms can include:
- pain and numbness on one side of the body
- pain through to your arms or legs
- worsening pain with certain movements or during the night
- Increased pain after standing or sitting
- pain while walking, even short distances
- tingling, aching, or burning sensations at the injury site
The severity of pain varies from person to person, but if the pain is causing numbness or affecting your ability to control your muscles, you need to contact a medical professional.
WHAT HAPPENS IF A HERNIATED DISC GOES UNTREATED?
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of a herniated disc, it is important to speak to your doctor or chiropractor. Left untreated, a herniated disc not only can cause you pain, it can lead to a compressed, or pinched, nerve in your spine, which can cause you to lose some of your quality of life.
Some of the more serious complications of leaving a herniated disc untreated include:
- loss of bowel/bladder control, numbness in legs and feet
- difficulty with balance and fine motor skills
- muscle weakness
While these symptoms can indicate a herniated disc, they could also be related to other conditions in the spine that would require medical care.
The key to preventing permanent damage is knowing when to contact a healthcare provider. Studies have shown that the earlier a person begins treatment for a herniated disc, the more likely they are to make a successful recovery. However, allowing the pain and problems to persist lead to many patients being left with long-term, and, in some cases, permanent nerve damage.
WHO IS AT RISK FOR A HERNIATED DISC?
Commonly, a herniated disc is caused by some kind of injury. However, there are certain risk factors that could make you more likely to have complications.
- Your weight. Maintaining a healthy weight will cause you to place less stress on your back, protecting the discs from shock.
- Your job. If your job is physically demanding, especially if it involves repetitive movements, you may have a greater risk of back injury. Bending, lifting, pushing, pulling and twisting can all lead to a herniated disc.
- Family history. You do not always have to experience an injury to have a herniated disc. For some people, genetics play a large role in making them more likely to develop problems with their spine.
- Tobacco use. Smoking may not be a risk factor you had thought of, but experts believe that smoking decreases the oxygen supply to the disc. That could cause the disc to break down more easily, leading to complications.
So, is there anything you can do to prevent a herniated disc? Yes, there are simple changes you can make. Exercise, maintaining good posture and healthy weight, and quitting smoking can significantly lower your risk of having a herniated disc.
CAN A CHIROPRACTOR TREAT A HERNIATED DISC?
In less severe cases, a herniated disc can be healed with a lot of patience and time. For mild pain, medications can be a big help, too. But, if the symptoms are too much to handle, you may be wondering what kind of medical professional you should turn to for relief. Your chiropractor can help prevent any further complications.
When you first see a chiropractor about your pain, they will want to know more about your medical history and perform a physical exam. He or she may also want to do an orthopaedical or neurological test. Specifically, they will be asking three questions:
- Are the nerves sending message properly? Or, are the reflexes still working?
- Has there been any loss of muscle?
- Is there any loss of feeling along the nerves’ path?
In the physical exam, your chiropractor will want to want to thoroughly exam your entire spine. Even if you are only experiencing pain in one part, your chiropractor will want to make sure your spine is functioning properly.
Having a better understanding of the issues you are facing with a herniated disc, your chiropractor will develop a treatment plan. This plan will be customized to you, and take into account the level of pain you are feeling, how active you are, along with the state of your overall health. Your treatment could include spinal manipulations, also known as chiropractic adjustments, and therapeutic exercises. Just be sure to follow the instructions of your spine specialists carefully, to ensure your treatments remains safe and effective.