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Are Chiropractors Good for Herniated Discs?

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Those dealing with a herniated disc have a range of treatment options at their disposal. One of the many choices is chiropractic care for herniated discs. Learn more about herniated discs and the type of treatment you can expect from a chiropractor.

What Is a Herniated Disc?

Herniated discs are also known as slipped or ruptured discs. To understand what a herniated disc is, you need to know some basic anatomy. Your spine is made up of individual vertebrae or bones. Discs are rubbery cushions that separate these vertebrae. Each spinal disc features the nucleus and the annulus, the center and exterior, respectively. The nucleus is soft and jellylike. The exterior is tougher and rubbery. A herniated disc is when this nucleus pokes out through the annulus. Just a portion of the nucleus needs to poke through for this to qualify.

Types of Treatment a Chiropractor Can Offer for a Herniated Disc

When you visit a chiropractor for a herniated disc in the neck, they will customize the treatment to your needs. The first appointment will always involve a physical exam and some basic tests. The chiropractor will evaluate your entire spine during the appointment. This helps your doctor determine the ideal chiropractic care for herniated disc for your situation. The following are some examples of chiropractic care for herniated discs. Flexion-Distraction Technique With this technique, chiropractors use a unique table to stretch or “distract” your spine. The table lets your chiropractor isolate an area at the same time that they use a pumping rhythm to flex the spine slightly. This treatment helps the nucleus of the disc shift back into its proper position. It can also help with disc height. Using the flexion-distraction technique will require several appointments. Manipulation Under Anesthesia (MUA) The anesthesia in this treatment is “twilight sleep.” It only lasts around six minutes. Your herniated disc chiropractor will perform this treatment at a hospital or ambulatory care center. Your doctor sedates you to relax your body. While it is relaxed, your chiropractor manipulates and stretches the treatment area. You will typically need between one and three sessions. Each session is about two to four weeks apart. Pelvic Blocking Technique Your chiropractor may also suggest the pelvic blocking technique for a herniated disc pain relief. With this treatment, they place cushioned wedges under your pelvis. They frequently have you complete gentle exercises with the wedges in place. This chiropractic treatment helps move the herniated disc away from your nerves. Supplemental Therapies Chiropractic care herniated disc typically supplements the above techniques with other therapies. These can include:
  • Ultrasound
  • Physiotherapy
  • Massage
  • Ice and heat
  • Electrical muscle stimulation
  • Supplementation
  • Muscle stimulation
  • At-home treatments and exercises
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication
  • Epidural steroid injections
In rare cases, you may need surgery to treat the herniated disc. However, your chiropractor will offer non-invasive treatments first for a herniated disc in the neck.

What Are Symptoms of a Herniated Disc?

Interestingly enough, not everyone will notice symptoms with a herniated disc. In many cases, however, the herniation irritates nearby nerves. This can lead to weakness, numbness, and pain affecting a leg or an arm. The symptoms of a herniated disc typically focus on one side of the body. The exact location of the pain will depend on where the herniated disc is. For example, most herniated discs in the lower back lead to pain in the calf, thigh, and buttock. There may also be some foot pain. Herniated discs in the neck typically lead to arm and shoulder pain. That pain may spread into the leg or arm when moving certain ways, sneezing, or coughing. In addition to the pain, tingling or numbness may radiate from the area with the herniated disc. You may also notice your muscles in the area weakening.

Common Causes of a Herniated Disc

A chiropractor for herniated discs will always customize your treatment plan based on the causes of your issues and your symptoms. In most cases, herniated discs naturally occur due to aging. The discs degenerate over time and become less flexible. This increases the risk of a tear or rupture, even with minor movements. Some people develop herniated discs if they lift heavy objects using their backs instead of their thighs and legs. Although rare, a traumatic event can cause herniated discs. An example would be a fall or receiving a strong blow to the back. Your herniated disc chiropractor can also let you know if you have risk factors for this issue. People with excess weight, physically demanding jobs, inherited risk, or who smoke have a higher risk of herniated discs.

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