As a Chiropractor I see many cases of low back and leg pain or neck and arm pain, quite often a patient will walk in and state they have a “slipped disc”. This is quite a generic term for a disc bulge, which can occur in varying degrees.
Different degrees of disc damage
A bulge occurs when the outer case of the disc splits, resulting in the gel inside bulging out of the disc, an easy way to imagine this is when you squeeze a jam filled donut, however the outer casing of the disc can be more compared to a car tyre, so is actually rather firm.
This damaged disc can then put pressure on the whole spinal cord or on a single nerve root. This means a damage can cause pain both in the area of the protruding disc and in the area of the body where the nerve travels to.
It is not always clear what causes it break down, although age is a common factor in many cases. As you get older, your spinal discs start to lose their water content, making them less flexible and more likely to rupture. Disc injuries most commonly occur between 30-50 years of age. Smoking also plays a role as it causes it to lose its natural flexibility.
It’s important to note not all slipped discs can cause symptoms such as pain, weakness or tingling. Many people will go their whole life and not know they have a slipped disc, even though they have one.
Diagnosis and Treatment for injury
First of all, it is important to receive the correct diagnosis. A lot of the information a medical professional can gain from taking a thorough history, this is then backed up by an examination, usually including: posture, spinal movements, reflexes, muscle strength, sensation and walking ability. If it is deemed necessary, your medical professional may send for imaging of your spine to see how severe the damage is.
It can take about four to six weeks to relieve discomfort from a disc injury. Treatment can include a combination of manual/ physical therapy, massage, exercise, and medication to relieve the pain. In severe cases surgery to release the compressed nerve and remove part of the disc may be considered.
In many cases, a slipped disc will eventually shrink back. However, an injury to the disc will remain. Quite often we find that patients have actually had previous episodes of disc pain before a severe episode has occurred. This is because the brain learns to “turn down the volume” on the pain messages coming from the nerve, although the disc will remain pressing on the nerve. The body will continue to do this until it reaches a point where it cannot compensate anymore.
If you have a slipped disc, it is very important to keep active. Initially moving may be difficult, but this will help keep your back mobile and stop the joints becoming too stiff and the muscles that support the spine becoming tight. Keeping moving will speed up your recovery.
Ice should be used immediately to help calm down inflammation and discomfort caused. It is best to ice the back where the nerve and the disc damage is originating from. This should be done 5 times a day for 10 minutes at a time.
Any exercise you do should be very gentle and not put too much strain on your back. Exercises that involve high impact, such as running, jumping or twisting, should be avoided as they may cause worsening injury.
Here at Lushington Chiropractic we genuinely care about our patients and improving their quality of life. We have an extremely professional and dedicated team who deliver the highest service and have over 80 years’ expertise between them.
Whether you’re suffering with a disc problem, a simple muscle spasm in your back / neck or have a more serious injury or long term problem we’re here to help you.
Find out more about me by visiting my website
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By Caroline Mulliner
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