Herniated Disc: Symptoms & Treatment

What Is a Herniated Disc?

Great question! It can be frustrating for people because there’s no universal definition and many different terms are associated – ruptured disc, slipped disc, collapsed disc, and so forth. How is a herniated disc different from a bulging disc? For general purposes, this quote from a Spine-Health.com video does a good job of summarizing,

“A herniated disc occurs when the outer portion of a spinal disc breaks down and the inner portion leaks out. The inner portion of the disc that extrudes can then irritate or compress nearby nerves, causing radiating pain.”

What Are the Symptoms of Herniated Disc?

If you’re wondering how to tell if you have a herniated disc, it’s the pain, which usually happens in the lower back (lumbar) or neck (cervical) areas of the spine. When in the lumbar area, you may experience pain that radiates down the leg due to nerve impingement – sciatica pain & numbness or pain in the big toe and ankle. For cervical discs, you can experience pain or weakness from your shoulders down through the hands and into specific fingers.

What Are the Treatment Options for a Herniated Disc?

For those wondering if there’s a cure for a herniated disc, the answer is yes! At Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab, once you’ve received a clinical diagnosis based on symptoms, a physical examination, and medical history, we’ll design a custom noninvasive multidisciplinary treatment program that can incorporate elements of chiropractic care, physical therapy for herniated disc, perhaps an inversion table for herniated disc, and massage therapy to restore proper spinal health. In more severe cases options like injections, NSAIDs, and oral steroids are considered.

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Which Body Parts Do Herniated Discs Affect?

Below are the four areas of the back or spine where disc herniation can occur. Technically, any disc may become herniated, and when this happens nearby nerves can produce pain or have an impact on relevant parts of the body. This could be the legs, arms, chest, neck, and so on.

Herniated Disc Exercises

Generally, you want to try and take it easy on your spine.  Avoid intense strength conditioning, or lifting heavy weight via squats, upright rows, or deadlift-style lifts. Instead, focus on dynamic stretching and less demanding aerobic exercises (biking, walking, hiking, etc.). If you’re interested, yoga and pilates are great because you’re working your abdomen, improving posture, increasing flexibility and core body strength all at once! Beyond this, you can incorporate specialized physical therapy exercises to alleviate herniated disk pain.

Stretches for Herniated Disc

Yes, stretching is a fabulous idea and can improve herniated disc pain relief by leaps and bounds. The goal with the stretches is to relieve pressure on the herniated disc and restore proper alignment and flexibility. Here are five of the more popular stretches for herniated disc pain you can do yourself at home anytime.

How Long Does a Herniated Disc Take to Heal?

As you might’ve guessed, there’s no universal answer to this question because it depends on your particular condition, your individual body, and your medical history. Technically, sometimes herniated discs can ‘take care of themselves’ without medical intervention, but often people confuse symptoms with causes. Pain can subside over time, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the disc has healed itself. Symptoms may come and go over time. This is why it’s imperative to get examined, diagnosed and then checked up on by a chiropractic doctor.

What Happens if a Herniated Disc Goes Untreated?

This is a very important question. As with most medical conditions, if you don’t address your herniated disk it could evolve into a more serious situation – from not needing surgery, to needing it. Or, you may experience permanent nerve damage to the affected area which itself could have serious consequences. It’s far better to stop by a chiropractic clinic and get checked out, diagnosed, and treated with safe, nonsurgical methods.

What Is the Difference Between Herniated Disc & Bulging Disc?

Because there’s no universal definition, depending on your doctor these could mean the same thing. In a general sense, a bulging disc hasn’t broken through and remains contained within the annulus fibrosis. A herniated disc, on the other hand, extends outside the annulus (uncontained) and into surrounding nerve tissue. Imagine a gel capsule, if you squish it but the gel doesn’t come out that’s a bulging disc. If the gel breaks through, that’s a herniated disc.