A man with working clothes touching his lower back in pain.


To understand disc herniation, it is first important to understand the make-up of your spine. In between each vertebra in your spine is a disc, which acts as a spacer and shock absorber. These discs have soft, gel-like centers surrounded by layers of fibrous tissues.

Sometimes the material in the middle of a disc pushes to one side or even ruptures. This is called a herniated disc (also herniated disc) or bulging disc. Disc herniation can be caused by an injury or simply by the aging of the body.

Where it occurs:

Bulging or herniated discs can appear in the:

  •  Neck (cervical spine)
  •  Low back (lumbar spine)
  •  Middle and upper back (thoracic spine)

What are the symptoms of herniated disc?

Patients with bulging or herniated discs may experience:

  •  Swelling
  •  Pressure
  •  Pain
  •  Weakness
  •  Tingling
  •  Numbness

Restoring better motion and position to the spinal joint

At Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab, we treat all types of disc problems. This treatment helps to restore better motion and position to the spinal joint. Besides reducing disc bulging and disc herniation, better spinal function helps reduce inflammation, which results in healing the surrounding soft tissues. We provide chiropractic care and rehabilitative therapy treatments in a non-surgical way to avoid surgery or a dependency on pain pills.

To understand what a herniated disc or disc herniation, bulging disc, or degenerative disc disease is, it is first important to understand the make-up of your spine. There are 24 vertebrae in the spine, and each vertebra has a disc, which acts like a shock absorber, that corresponds to it. Each vertebra is classified with a number and a letter for which region it is located in. There are 7 in the cervical spine (C1-C7), 12 in the thoracic spine (T1-T12) and 5 in the lumber spine (L1-L5). There are a total of 23 discs, each named for the vertebrae above and below; C3-C4 would mean the disc that is between C3 and C4.

The disc is made up of 2 different layers. The outer part is the annulus fibrosis that has concentric rings. These rings give the disc its strength and help to contain the inner part the nucleus pulposus. The nucleus is made up of a jelly-like material that contains a lot of fluid, mainly water. This jelly middle allows the disc to absorb a lot of compressive forces that are applied to the spine with any upright movement of the body.

To help support the discs, there are ligaments that protect all sides of the disc and keep the vertebrae aligned. Unfortunately, the back part of these ligaments is the weakest because the ligament needs to allow the nerves to exit at each level. As a child these disc are very flexible and adapt well to compressive forces. When we age the disc starts to become more brittle as well as may become thinner. Disc degeneration or disc desiccation is the term applied to thinning discs. This thinning occurs when there are a lot of compressive forces on the disc or can occur if there is some trauma.

But injuries or just aging can cause the discs to lose their fluid content and wear thin – beginning the degenerative disc disease process or disc herniation / herniated disc process. This allows the vertebrae to rub together, becoming rough, worn down – or even fused together. The result is a degenerative disc.

When there are a lot of compressive forces applied to these discs, other injuries can occur that cause weakening of the annulus fibrosis or tears can occur. These disc lesions are classified into two categories: contained and uncontained. In contained disc lesions the nucleus is still contained within the disc (disc bulge and herniation), and in uncontained disc lesions the nucleus will protrude past the disc (disc extrusion and sequestered disc).

Degenerative or herniated discs are at the root of many other spinal problems, such as instability, stenosis, and spondylosis.

One of the most common lesions to a disc is the disc bulge; this is where some of the fibers of the annulus fibrosis tear and the jelly will begin to migrate to the back side of the disc. Disc bulges are asymptomatic a lot of the time, but they can apply pressure on the nerves or the spinal cord.

Disc herniation (also called disc protrusions) is when the jelly will protrude through some of the fibers and will displace some of the surrounding structures the ligaments, nerves and the spinal cord. The outer fibers are still intact, and the nucleus is kept within the disc.

Disc extrusion is when the nucleus pushes through the fibers and exits the disc perimeter but is still adhered to the disc. With an extrusion, the disc material may also travel up or down the canal. When an extrusion occurs, it can and most likely will put pressure on the surrounding structures.

The last type of disc lesion is a sequestered disc; this is when the nucleus will extrude and will separate from the disc and travel in the spinal canal or another canal. This can cause many problems because the nucleus can get wedged on a nerve or the spinal cord. Whenever there is pressure applied to a nerve or the spinal cord, this will cause pain or numbness to the affected areas, such as down an arm or leg. When there is pressure put upon the spinal cord, this can and usually will affect both sides of the body either arms or legs. If the disc lesion only goes to one side, pain will affect one side of the body.

Contained discs can usually be treated conservatively with chiropractic, traction, injections and rehabilitative therapy. Here at Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab, we have treated literally thousands of degenerated discs, bulging discs, herniated discs and disc extrusions. Disc extrusions can benefit from conservative care, which should always be tried before surgery.

An anatomical representation of a middle section of a spine.

What are my treatment options?

Treatment options for bulging or herniated discs/herniated discs include chiropractic care, rehabilitative therapy, DRS treatment & low back pain treatment and MCU therapy. Talk to your doctor about the best way to care for your disc herniation. Caring for disc conditions means understanding what has happened in the spine.

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