- Most of us have heard the term “slipped disc” when describing a low back injury. In fact intervertebral discs do not actually “slip”. Instead they herniate or bulge out from between two vertebrae.
- A herniation is a displaced fragment of the center part or nucleus of the disc that has pushed through a tear in the outer layer or annulus of the disc. This can cause pain when irritating substances are released from the tear and also if the fragment touches or compresses a nearby nerve. Disc herniations can have similarities to degenerative disc disease and discs that herniate are often in the early stages of degeneration. They are a common cause of low back pain but are also found in the neck and less frequently in the mid-back.
- How do herniations happen? Many factors decrease the strength and resiliency of discs, increasing the risks of herniation. Smoking, lack of regular exercise, poor nutrition, sedentary lifestyle, and excessive weight all contribute to poor disc health. Poor posture, daily “wear and tear” , injury or trauma, and incorrect lifting and twisting further stress your discs. Now consider that multiple factors are usually involved and “the straw that breaks the camels back” can be something as simple as coughing or bending over to pick up a quarter. The herniation wasn’t just caused by the last action but rather the cumulative load of what has happened before.
- How do I know if I have one? Of course you would need a through physical examination and diagnostic studies to definitively diagnose a intervertebral disc herniation but here are some clues. Herniated discs are more prevalent in people between the ages of 30 and 40 and twice as common in men than women. The most common symptom will be pain in the area of the herniation that may radiate across the hips or into the buttocks. One might also experience numbness or pain radiating (traveling) down your leg to your foot (sciatica). If its bad enough (big enough) you might get weakness with lifting your big toe and you may not be able to walk on your toes or heels. Severe cases of lumbar disc herniation can effect your bowel or bladder function and may also cause problems with sexual function. If you are unable to urinate for more that a 24hr period this becomes an emergency due to a rare condition known as Cauda Equine Syndrome.
- What do I do now? In the first 24-48 hrs after the onset of symptoms call your friendly chiropractor to make an appointment and rest and ice your back. Ice the affected area for 15 minutes every hour, when not sleeping, making sure that there is a damp cloth barrier between your skin and the ice pack. Mild to moderate disc herniations can usually be treated conservatively with stretching, exercise therapy and chiropractic adjustments. In more complicated cases we use spinal decompression, such as traction, in conjunction with chiropractic care. Severe herniations may require surgery. These cases are reserved as a last resort when previous therapies have failed to relieve pain, or if there is significant compression of the spinal cord or nerves.
For more information or to make an appointment with Dr. Joshua Longo call 916-645-3890 today!