Disc Herniation: Pain, Numbness, Tingling - A Detailed Review
Disc herniations can be devastating. A recent study found that as much as 3% of the population is affected by SYMPTOMATIC (meaning pain or symptoms are present) disc herniation. This indicates that even more of the general population could have a herniated disc, and not know it yet, leaving them susceptible to a major back or nerve injury. This article will outline all aspects of disc herniation, and what you can do to fix it or even prevent it from happening in the first place.
What Is A Disc Herniation? And What Causes A Disc Herniation?
“Disc Herniation” refers to a problem with one of the rubbery cushions (discs) between the individual spinal bones (vertebrae) that stack one on top of the other to make up your spine. You can think of a spinal disc like a jelly donut - a softer centre encased by a slightly tougher exterior. These discs are essential as each one plays a role in shock absorption and provides space between each spinal bone so the spinal nerves can pass through unobstructed.
Disc herniations are caused by abnormal structure of the spinal column and spinal bones leading to improper or uneven force distribution through each separate spinal segment. When this happens, it causes the disc to herniate or bulge, places pressure on the spinal nerves and causes early degeneration of the spine.
Abnormal structure of the spinal column is caused by major traumas like auto accidents or sports injuries, minor traumas like small slips and falls or prolonged poor posture. Once present and if left uncorrected, these shifts in the spine bones continue to worsen over time.
Where Does A Disc Herniation Occur?
The majority of disc herniations occur in the lower lumbar spine, with the most common sites being the L5/S1 and L4/L5 discs. Disc herniations in this area will affect the lower back and lower spine. Although less frequent, it is still fairly common to experience herniations in the lower cervical spine (neck) as well, affecting the base of the neck and shoulders.
How Is A Disc Herniation Diagnosed?
Potential disc herniations are first identified through a physical exam and health history review with your doctor. This will involve some tests to check nerve function, range of motion, and pain aggravation or relief.
The only way to accurately diagnose disc herniation is through the use of advanced imaging. Your doctor will likely order an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan to accurately view the bones and soft tissue in the affected area of your spine.
What Symptoms Occur Due To Disc Herniation?
The most common complaints associated with disc herniation are pain, numbness and tingling. This is really just the tip of the iceberg, though. If we look at the nervous system and understand where all the nerves travel, we should quickly realize that the effects of disc herniation placing pressure and tension on a nerve can cause many more symptoms than the ones mentioned above.
Our central nervous system is comprised of our spinal cord and all of the spinal nerves, and it controls every single function of the human body. Our nerves literally attach our brain to every single organ, muscle, and cell in our body.
So, when a disc herniation places pressure on nerve it can definitely cause pain, numbness, tingling, burning, and other sensory changes, but it can also cause things like muscle spasm, digestive dysfuntion, chest pains, trouble breathing, blood pressure irregularities, thyroid problems, motion restrictions, sinus problems, blurred vision, headaches, and much more.
If you have questions about a specific condition and how it may be related to your spine please contact our Oakville chiropractic office.
What Are The Treatment Options For Disc Herniation?
Traditional treatment options for disc herniation include pain killers or muscle relaxants to help manage pain levels. If these stop working or don’t help to begin with, then manual therapies like physiotherapy, massage and traditional chiropractic care can be of benefit to reduce pain levels. In extreme or complicated cases more invasive and permanent procedures like surgery may be recommended.
In our office, we focus on an area of chiropractic called NeuroStructural Correction. This involves us thoroughly examining your spine to find out what types of spinal shifts might be causing the disc herniation, and then we work with you to restore normal structure of the spine to take pressure off the disc and off the spinal nerves. We do this using chiropractic adjustments, structural rehabilitative exercises, and postural retraining tools.
Can Disc Herniation Be Prevented From Ever Occurring In The First Place?
Yes, disc herniations can be prevented by promoting and maintaining normal structure throughout your spine. When you have normal structure, pressure is evenly distributed through the entire spinal column and all of the discs, supporting healthy disc function making it far less likely to rupture. For more information on our gentle chiropractic technique click here.
Other important factors in preventing disc herniation include proper lifting form, proper movement mechanics, maintaining a healthy body weight, and maintaining strong and balanced core musculature.