Herniated discs, also known as ruptured discs, are severe injuries that cannot be ignored or merely treated with painkillers. A herniated disc occurs when some of the soft tissue inside of a spinal disc leaks out due to a rupture in the disc. While herniated discs are sometimes caused by auto accidents or other major trauma, they are usually caused by ongoing wear and tear from sports, poor posture, lifting heavy boxes, and or other movement and activities. Genetic factors can also increase your risk of herniated disc injuries.
Typically, herniated discs are preceded by bulging discs, which are inflamed spinal discs that are at risk of rupturing. Spinal discs are critical to your body’s movement and provide protection for the nerves that communicate with your entire body. If left untreated, your mobility can become significantly limited as pain and numbness increases.
The symptoms of herniated discs are not always completely straightforward since the pain of herniated discs is similar to many other types of back injuries. Some herniated discs cause no initial symptoms and will only cause pain later on. Herniated discs can also cause numbness, weakness or pain in the arms and legs, which causes many patients to suspect other injuries before they suspect a back injury.
In extreme cases, incontinence and paralysis symptoms can occur. Such cases require immediate medical attention and will likely require surgery.
Ideally, patients should seek care before a bulging disc ruptures and becomes a herniated disc. A licensed chiropractor should always be consulted when back, arm, or leg pain persists for more than a day or two. While massage therapists can be appropriate for some cases, only a licensed chiropractor can identify and treat major issues.
MRIs and other imaging techniques are usually used to confirm herniated discs. Sometimes, a herniated disc will even show up on an image of a patient who has reported no back problems. In these cases, a chiropractor will work closely with the patient to determine the severity of the herniated disc and the best course of action.
Herniated disc treatment from a chiropractor can dramatically reduce pain and expedite the healing process. Chiropractic manipulation, physical therapy, stretches, and gentle exercise encourages the body to heal while reducing pain. Rest and avoiding strenuous activity are also critical, as re-aggravating a herniated disc can set recovery back months. While painkillers are an option, they are best avoided, as long-term use can result in dependency and other issues.
In some cases, steroids and even surgery may be required, but chiropractic care resolves the majority of herniated disc cases. A chiropractor can also help train a patient on proper heavy lifting techniques and other measures to prevent future injuries.
Overall, the prognosis for herniated discs is good, as long as the issue is addressed quickly. Putting off care can cause the condition to get much worse, making surgery or other invasive measures much more necessary.