The following is the opinion of the L.I.F.T. Chiropractic, and these are some of the options we offer our patients. It is important to start conservatively and measure the improvements before heading into the surgery. This means working with the body to begin the healing process, before using drugs, or removing something through surgery. Of course, there are several different ways this injury can affect someone, and surgery maybe the only option, but the philosophy of the L.I.F.T. Chiropractic is to explore natural ways to heal the body, using surgery as a last option.
The most common cause of a herniated disc injury is poor biomechanics (moving improperly, which we are all guilty of doing). Discs are most commonly torn by lifting a weight while twisting; getting something heavy out of the backseat of your car is an example. As we all know in the game of baseball, especially at the plate, the body goes through some twisting and contouring with a driving force.
The first step is to determine what symptoms we have and address them accordingly. The most common types of pain from a herniated disc injuries are low back pain and/or radiating pain into an extremity. We are using low back pain as our example, but radiating pain into the leg is often experienced with this type of injury. In many cases you can just have leg pain and no back pain. The reason the pain is referred to as “radiating” is because the disc material will bulge out causing inflammation and put pressure on a nerve, and the pain will follow that specific nerve’s pattern. For example, a herniation of the L3 disc will put pressure on the L4 nerve, causing pain to radiate down the posterior (back) of a leg.
To determine if a herniated disc is causing you pain, your doctor will perform an examination and orthopedic tests. If your doctor determines that a disc is the problem, the next step is to take a simple X-ray to rule out any underlying problem with the bones or joints. The next step is an MRI; from here you will be able to see the level and severity of the herniation. It is also important to know that the size of the herniation does not necessarily correspond to the severity of pain. In fact, some people can have a large herniation with no symptoms at all, and some can have a very small lesion and experience immense pain. From the results, the doctor will be able to determine if your herniated disc can be treated with natural therapy or if surgery is required.
The initial phase of such an injury is often described as a patient saying, “I heard a pop and then all of a sudden I was in incredible pain.” The pop they heard is the tearing of the annular fibers of the disc. In the acute stage, or a few days after the injury, a patient can be in a lot of pain, and experience some inflammation and swelling. The patient comes in saying, “Doctor, just get me out of pain, please!” To immediately address the pain, the first step is to reduce swelling by cooling the area with ice, being careful not to put the ice directly on the skin. (Yes, you can get a burn from ice!) You can alternate ice on and off twenty minutes at a time. DO NOT use heat; it will increase swelling and you will regret it. At the Mountain View Pain Center, in this situation we like to use a therapy called Hi Volt, which is an electronic modality. The purpose of this modality is to decrease pain and move that edema (swelling) out of the affected area.