Herniated discs occur when tears in the fibrous, exterior rings of spinal vertebrate discs are severe enough to permit the fleshy, inner portion of these discs (the nucleus pulposus) to bulge and extend past the injured, outer rings.
Sometimes called a “bulged” or “slipped” disc, a herniated disc involves damage to the tissues that act as cushions between the vertebrae. Without these soft cushions, vertebrae bones would not only scrape against each other but humans would be incapable of performing any type of movement without experiencing severe pain.
Causes of Herniated Discs
Simple Wear & Tear Due To Aging
Degeneration of the spine and its components is a natural process of senescence that the body experiences as it ages. By constantly bending, walking and twisting hundreds of times a day for over 50 years, the spine understandably begins to degenerate. Weakening of intervertebral discs, specifically the outer layers, is a frequent cause of bulging inner tissues and the ensuing herniated disc.
Auto accidents, repetitive movements involving the spine, engaging in vigorous physical activities or incorrectly lifting something extremely heavy can all be precipitating causes of disc herniations. If the disc is already compromised because of degeneration or a previous injury, something as slight as a sneeze could possibly force a disc’s inner tissues to burst through the outer layer and produce a hernia.
Treatment for Herniated Discs
Do Herniated Discs Heal Without Treatment?
The majority of herniated disc conditions tend to heal without treatment. Generally, the time needed for a herniated disc to heal is between one and six months. Sufferers of herniated discs should start to experience relief from the pain and numbness associated with the condition during this time range.
Treatment measures used to facilitate self-healing of herniated discs include:
- Avoiding unnecessary physical activity that puts undue stress on the spine
- Taking ibuprofen or other NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) for mild to moderate pain
- Taking prescription medications for severe pain
- Receiving epidural injections of steroids for pain
- Performing doctor-recommended exercises to strengthen the spine and supporting back muscles
- Gradually increasing the amount and level of physical activity as the herniated disc starts to heal
Resorption of a Herniated Disc
Self-healing of a herniated disc involves a process called resorption, which occurs when bulging tissues come in contact with other tissues. The result of this contact produces an enzymatic reaction that creates a chemical capable of dissolving any bone or tissue fragments which are then assimilated by the body. Resorption can relieve or eliminate nerve pressure responsible for nerve pain and numbness in the legs and back.
Chiropractic is a non-invasive, conservative approach to treatment that has been proven to be effective in minimizing the pain of disc herniations. At Wellness Way Chiropractic in Milwaukee, we develop custom treatment plans for patients dealing with disc herniations that usually consist spinal adjustments in conjunction with other conservative treatment modalities. In addition to addressing the existing condition, chiropractors can also help patients correct improper body mechanics (such as sitting posture and lifting techniques) to prevent future damage to spinal structures.
Surgical Treatment for Herniated Discs
In only about 10 percent of herniated disc cases is surgical treatment required to repair the condition. Candidates for herniated disc surgery include:
- Those who suffer severe pain and weakness that does not respond to any type of conservative treatment
- Patients who suffer incontinence due to bladder/bowel weakness
- People with progressive nerve damage
Spinal decompression surgery and microdiskectomy surgery for sciatica pain due to herniated discs are two of the most common surgical techniques used to treat a herniated disc.
If you ever find yourself in immense pain from a herniated disc you should always keep in mind that there are many conservative treatment options, including chiropractic care, that will put you on the road to recovery.
About Guest Author Paul Jean
Paul Jean works with the Denver Integrated Spine Center and enjoys freelance writing about health and wellness. He enjoys cycling around his hometown, Denver.