According to the American Chiropractic Association, each year, nearly one-half of all working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms. Many of those people may be experiencing a herniated disc and not even know it until they are in pain.
What Is A Herniated Disc?
Also known as a bulging disc, slipped disc and ruptured disc, a herniated disc happens when a spinal disc moves out from the spinal column and puts pressure on the nerves in your spine. These spinal discs typically act as cushions between each vertebrae and allow movement when you bend and stretch your spine. Although herniated discs occur most often in people age 45 or older, particularly after strenuous activity, there is not always an exact cause, and they can happen to anyone at any age.
Herniated Disc Symptoms
The following are common symptoms of a herniated disc:
Pain in Neck, Arms, Legs or Back
The location of the disc herniation in your spine determines where your pain will be. If a herniated disc occurs in the neck (cervical area), you’ll feel pain in your neck, shoulders and possibly down your arms; if a disc herniates in your lower back (lumbar area), you can experience back pain, as well as discomfort in the legs; and although rare, disc herniation can occur in your upper-to-mid back (thoracic area) and create pain in the upper back and shoulder muscles.
Numbness & Tingling
Pinched nerves and nerve pressure from a herniated disc can result in symptoms like numbness and tingling. Numbness and tingling can occur in areas like your arms or legs, depending on where the slipped disc is located. While this symptom often accompanies pain, it can sometimes happen on its own without any others.
The muscles that surround your spine have a strong connection to your nerves, and may become weaker as a herniated disc continues to pinch the nerves around them. If you have a herniated disc in the cervical area of your spine, you may have trouble lifting your arms or clenching your fists, and if it is a disc herniation in the lumbar area, you may have difficulty lifting your legs or standing on your toes.
Herniated Disc Causes & Risk Factors
Although there are no clear-cut causes of herniated discs because they can happen unexpectedly, there are certain factors that can increase your risk of a bulging disc or slipped disc. The following are some of those factors.
As we age, the discs in our spine lose water content and become less flexible and more vulnerable to tears and movement. We call this degenerative disc disease, although it’s not so much a disease as it is a natural process that happens to our spinal discs. This makes any falls, twists and overstraining more of a risk for disc herniation.
Excess body weight can put pressure on and cause stress to most areas of your body, your spine included. When extra weight is put on the spine, the discs are put under more pressure and this can make them slip, bulge or rupture.
Occupation & Daily Activities
If your day-to-day schedule requires repetitive lifting, twisting and bending, it adds more stress to your spinal discs. The more physically demanding your work is, the more of a risk you have of herniating a disc, especially as you get older.
If your family has a history of herniated disc and back related problems, you are more prone to having disc herniation issues. If this is the case, be sure to keep your back and core muscles strong to support your spine to help prevent the discs from slipping or rupturing.
Herniated Disc Treatment
Many people are fearful of herniated discs because they feel like the only treatment option is surgery. While a herniated disc can be a serious condition, there are other non-invasive treatment methods that can help to heal a herniated disc just the same.
In decompression therapy, we use nonsurgical spinal decompression methods to relieve back pain, especially pain caused by a herniated disc. We use an inversion table to stretch out your spine over several weeks to relieve the pain and take the pressure off of your spinal discs. Over time, treatment can help to retract the bulging or herniated disc.
Light physical therapy can help to strengthen your back and core muscles so that some of the pressure is relieved from your spine. During physical therapy, we may introduce some chiropractic care and spinal adjustments to help ease your herniated disc symptoms and lessen your pain as your body heals.
If you have any questions or concerns related to herniated discs, please fill out the Ask The Doctor form on this page and someone from the Whitehall Health Centre staff will be in touch with you shortly.