Bulging or Herniated Discs Treatment

Symptoms

Symptoms of bulging or herniated discs depend on the location of the herniation within the spine. If there is a herniated disc in the neck (cervical spine), symptoms can include neck, shoulder, shoulder blade, and arm pain. Numbness or tingling can affect the shoulder, upper arm, forearm, or hands and fingers. Symptoms of a herniated disc in the neck can also include muscle weakness of the involved arm or hand. If the disc herniation or bulge is in the lower back (lumbar spine), symptoms may include lower back and leg pain, numbness, or tingling. If symptoms are present in both arms or legs, the condition is likely more serious.

Causes

A herniated disc usually occurs gradually over time with progressive disc weakening. Symptoms tend to progress slowly and may not be present until the condition has become severe. Several past incidences of lower back or neck pain can be indicative of a gradual disc herniation progression. In other cases, a specific traumatic event can cause a disc to herniate, such as a motor vehicle whiplash injury. Poor posture or exercise habits, too little exercise, too much exercise or excessive repetitive activity, dietary habits, genetics, and previous injuries are all factors contributing to disc herniation or bulge.

shutterstock_107351051-herniateddiscBackground

The term herniation is often used interchangeably with bulge (generally smaller than a herniation) and protrusion. Spinal discs are the spongy pads between the bones of the spinal column. They are composed of a tough outer layer that contains a softer, more gelatinous, viscous material inside. Discs provide shock absorption for the spine, provide space between the bones so your nerves can exit the spinal column, and offer the spine flexibility during daily tasks.

Disc herniation, disc bulge and disc protrusion are most common in the lower cervical spine (neck) and lower lumbar spine (lower back). Over time, spinal discs tend to become acidic from micro trauma and poor circulation. They begin to lose the fluid contained within the disc, making it less effective at absorbing shock and more susceptible to damage or herniation. In mild cases, the disc is displaced from its central location between 2 vertebral bones and protrudes outward. In more severe cases, the viscous inner layer can leak out through the tough outer layer of the disc.

A herniated disc can be diagnosed with a series of orthopedic and neurological tests; however, diagnostic imaging (MRI or CT scan) confirms a herniated disc through direct visualization of the damaged tissue.

Aligned Medical Group’s Approach

Our approach to herniated disc treatment occurs in 2 phases. During the first phase, we establish mobility, range of motion, and flexibility. Our initial goal is to break the tightening around the area so your disc can heal more easily. For more severe cases, medications are encouraged to assist with inflammation and pain. We avoid strengthening early on to prevent further stress on the area. In mild cases, the condition can be treated conservatively with flexibility and exercise, flexion distraction chiropractic spinal manipulation, muscle stimulation, ice therapy, and modification of habits.

Understanding that it can take 12 months for a disc to fully heal, we want to create a proper environment around the disc in regards to mobility and supportive strength, along with modification of any lifestyle habits that are causing excessive strain on your disc. In more severe cases, Vax-D spinal decompression therapy is prescribed to “vacuum” the damaged disc, reducing intradiscal pressure and stimulating the healing process. Vax-D decompression can heal a disc within 2 months, often times repairing tears and cracks, while strengthening the annular fibers (outer bands) so your disc can retain fluid and begin absorbing shock again. We may perform injections into sore and tight muscles and provide support bracing to protect your disc while it heals. We prescribe epidural spinal injections for the worst cases, in particular when spinal nerves are pinched and causing leg pain.