Acute Disc Conditions
cute injuries can happen from any sudden tearing of the disc fibers. Common activities and situations that injure discs are bending, lifting, or twisting the spine, falls, or automobile accidents. The symptoms will vary due to level, location, and size of the disc injury. A herniation can happen in any part of the spine cervical (neck) thoracic (middle back) or lumbar (low back) region. Of these, herniation’s in the thoracic region are very uncommon. Disc injuries to the lower back (slipped disc) are more common from lifting and cervical disc injuries are an all too common in severe whiplash injuries. A little known fact is that lifting a heavy can actually cause a cervical disc herniation if the disc was already weakened.
Chronic Disc Conditions
Chronic disc conditions can be the result of a poorly healed injury or from excessive and repetitive stress. As more wear occurs, the disc becomes dehydrated (dries out) and becomes thin. Calcium salts may try to invade the disc and the surrounding tissue. This is the way the body tries to stabilize the weakening disc. The result over time is joint spurs (arthritis) and a poorly functioning back joint. Stiffness and dull aching pain are usually reported in these classic cases of chronic disc disease.
Discs that are bulging, herniated, or prolapsed often create sharp pain, which may radiate into the extremities. A cervical disc herniation may cause pain down and arm. Likewise, a lower back herniation may send pain down a leg. The area the pain travels to is an important clue as to the level of the disc injury. For instance, if the last lumbar disc is herniated, pain may travel down the back of the right leg and into the little toe. If the middle of the lumbar spine is damaged at the third lumbar disc level, the pain will travel more towards the front of the leg.
In the lower back, the position of the herniation also determines the symptoms. For instance, if the disc herniation is near the center of the spine, the pain may only be experienced in the back. The pain with this type of herniation gets a bit better when you lean into the side of pain and worsens when you lean away from the side of pain. A disc herniation on the lateral side (away from the center of the spine.) may only cause leg pain. The pain from this type of herniation decreases when you lean away from the side of pain and worsens when you lean into the side of pain
Treating Disc Conditions
Your chiropractor is specially trained in the treatment of the spine and through careful history, examination, and imaging (x ray and MRI) your chiropractor can diagnose and treat most disc disorders. Your chiropractor can also discuss with you any need for surgical intervention, should your diagnosis warrant a more radical surgical solution. Conservative chiropractic care for disc conditions may involve the use of ice and or ultrasound to reduce any initial swelling and inflammation during the acute phase. Guarded stretching of certain muscles groups may also be started. Also, manipulation may be used to restore lost joint integrity, and traction to the disc can be done to help reduce (suck back in) some of the migrating nucleus material.
Your chiropractor may also recommend and fit you with a special back brace to prevent re injury and reduce pain. Nutritional recommendations should also be followed to aid in the healing process.. For instance, a substance called glucose amino chondroitin sulfate is lost from injured discs and may be replaced to a degree with supplements. Remember that disc injuries take approximately twelve weeks to heal. Patience is required to cope with the expected ups and downs; however, with successful treatment and time, the results can be a welcome alternative to the use of drugs or back surgery.
Chiropractors also frequently treat degenerative disc conditions. With manipulation and other supportive measures such as applications of moist heat, stretching, massage therapy, and proper exercise, the pain and discomfort of degenerative joint disease can be greatly eased.
With proper continued care, the arthritic process can be slowed or halted. Remember that if you have suffered from a previous disc condition in the past, it would be wise to take good care of your spine and see your chiropractor as recommended. A disc can never heal as good as new but with good care, strengthening and support to the surrounding tissue, your back may be spared the early onset of joint arthritis, which so commonly follows a disc injury.