“Disc injuries” is a general term for conditions such as herniated disc, slipped disc, or bulging disc; this when in the lower back spine can sometimes cause sciatica and pain down the leg along the path of the sciatic nerve. When seeking care for a herniated disc, a Chiropractor seems to be the go-to doctor, but not all Chiropractic clinics are created equal.

What is a Disc Herniation?

There are 24 bones called vertebrae that make up your spine which houses your spinal cord where the nerves exit to distribute to the rest of your body. Between each of these bones, there are discs that act as shock absorbents for the bones in your back. There are two parts to each disc:

  • Annulus fibrosus: the tough, flexible outer ring of the disc
  • Nucleus pulposus: the soft, jelly-like center of the disc

Injuries, lifestyle, and habits contribute to disc health and when inappropriate, canned up being herniated. Depending on the size and location of the herniation, and if the herniated disc presses on the spinal cord and/or the spinal nerves you can end up with subtle to severe pain. Disc herniations typically happen in the lower back but are also commonly seen in the middle of the neck.

 

Not every nerve irritation is due to a herniated disc in the lower back, but there can be many contributors and players including the muscles of the pelvic floor and down the leg. In fact, at times, it can be related to issues of the bowel and bladder causing constipation, incontinence, bladder, and sexual system problems which categorically are referred to as pelvic floor dysfunction.

With neck disc herniation you will experience pain, tingling, numbness, and/or weakness across your shoulder, down your arm to your fingers, and be mistaken as carpal tunnel syndrome at times. When inflamed and swollen intense pain in the back or neck is inevitable.

What Causes Disc Herniation?

Your habits and lifestyle matter; for instance bending and twisting puts you at the least amount of protection and the most common position for the lower back discs to herniate. Most people think that it is the actual weight of the item that matters but the position of the back is the crucial factor. 

Lifting objects with your back instead of your legs can place extreme pressure on the discs in the low back causing them to herniate. The proper way to lift is shown in the video below:

Another cause of disc herniation is arthritis in the spine. A form of arthritis called degenerative disc disease, also known as Osteoarthritis, can cause a disc to herniate due to the condition of the vertebra and uneven pressure placed on the discs over time. The degenerative joint disease and the uneven pressure placed on the discs is caused as a result of “mis-alignments” in your spine and is not related to the age of the person contrary to what you may be told.

This misalignment can come from an old injury that was never properly attended to because the treatment to get rid of pain does not bring the function back to the joint!

Let me explain: if you have a door hanging on the frame crooked, it will be only a short time before you will see wear and tear at the edges of the door where it hits the frame. It is a new door, misaligned, and showing wear and tear! On the other hand, an old door, sitting on its frame properly after many years, shows the aged wood and no wear and tear because all those years it was sitting on its frame properly. That is the truth about common arthritis that is mistakenly associated with old age!

Most people don’t attend to their spinal hygiene like they attend their dental hygiene so it is easy to have long-term issues without any pain but the silent destruction of the joints and tissues takes place all along. Remember, not every case of gum disease starts with pain! It becomes painful when the disease has progressed!

How Does Lifestyle and Diet Contribute to Disc Herniation? 

An unhealthy diet can also play a role in causing disc herniation, after all, your disc needs hydration and nutrients to stay healthy and help maintain its shape and shock absorption function. In addition, a diet full of sugar and processed foods can result in excess inflammation in your body which can cause increased inflammation in your joints.

An overall sedentary lifestyle can contribute to the occurrence of disc herniation because this results in bad posture, which places uneven and increased pressure on the discs. This can also lead to “mis-alignments” in your neck and back.

At work, make sure to take micro-breaks from sitting and sit on an exercise ball combined with a sit-to-stand desk. If you can’t use a ball in the office then an air cushion is the next best thing as the video below explains how.

For women, wearing high heel shoes can place uneven and increased pressure on the discs in the low back. It is okay to wear high heels occasionally (well it really is not, unless you are sitting mostly and can kick them off under the table), but make sure that you give those important discs in your back a break to avoid injury.

Some people think straining on the toilet causes disc issues but that is actually a test that we do to check the state of pain and complaint. It does not cause disc issues but is a sign of potential disc condition. 

How Can I Prevent Disc Herniation?

So to summarize, the following are common contributors to disc conditions:

  • Lifting while twisting
  • Lifting with your back instead of with your legs
  • Arthritis
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Lack of exercise
  • Prolonged wearing of high heels
  • Prolonged sitting

What Are the Treatment Options for Disc Herniation?

While surgery is always in the back of the mind for people with disc herniation, conservative treatment shows to be highly effective in avoiding surgery and bringing activity back into life. 

If surgery is not the case then the goal ought to be that of functional restoration. That means the following:

Chiropractic adjustments to activate the nervous system:

Bear in mind that Chiropractic adjustments vary and there are more techniques than ‘cracking’ your back and neck.

Spinal decompression therapy:

I am not a big fan of decompression therapy because while the traction is taking place, there is no way to see if the ligaments and soft tissue between each spinal bone or vertebra are relaxed enough to further the traction. The curvatures of the neck and lower back require an individual assessment of the computer system of the decompression unit for each vertebra. I have not seen any machine that does this which is a reason why I do not provide decompression therapy in my office.

Active Release Technique (ART)

This is what I refer to as the cleaning up process; activating the joints and the synchrony of muscle engagements based on the proper movement patterns.

Breathing

The video below explains what that means and how it helps you with all aspects of injuries and function. Proper breathing is like creating a barrel with the pelvic diaphragm being the bottom, the abdominal diaphragm being the top, and all of the muscles around your torso being the sides. What it takes to ensure the sides of the barrel are functioning properly.

Postural Neurology

There is a map of movement and sensation that you are born with that gets developed especially during the first 2 years of life. Postural Neurology exam is how we determine what portions of this map with regards to posture and balance are weak; it is through exercising those weak areas that we are able to improve this blueprint of movement to what it once was.

If movement was a concert, your brain is the conductor, the map of movement and sensation is the musical note and the body parts are the musicians who not only need to know their musical part but to know when and how to chime in and phase out. Postural Neurology looks to see if the musical note is changed or not. No matter how great the musicians are, if the note dictates a different song, we won’t hear the music we expect to hear.

Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization or DNS

DNS is walking the path that we walked as babies during the first couple of years of our lives. If all babies around the world develop movement following the same movement pattern then this must be the way we are meant to function. It makes sense to re-train the body and brain following these same patterns when it comes to restoring the natural movement and posture. 

While prevention is the best solution in life, hope that this blog shed a light on how to proceed should you have any issues with your disc health. Contact our office, if you need help with your disc-related conditions.

Dr. Shakib