A disc is a cushion like structure located between each vertebrae in the spine. A disc herniation occurs when its outer layer weakens or tears and the inner segment protrudes out into the spinal canal. The protruding disc can then irritate the nerve in the spinal canal creating an inflammation reaction, resulting in pain in the neck or arms or pain in the back, buttocks or legs. Disc herniations can arise anywhere in the spine but they are most common in the neck and low back .

Disc herniationOur back is made up of 24 bony segments called vertebrae and between each of these there are sponge like structures called discs. There are 23 discs in the spine and they comprise ¼ of the total spine length. They act as shock absorbers and they also allow the spine to move. They consist of an inner core (a semi-fluid gel) which is surrounded by a harder fibrous ring.

There are 3 classic patterns of disc herniation:

  • Bulging Disc: the inner core migrates outwards into the outer ring but the ring does not tear.
  • Contained Disc: the inner core migrates outwards so much that it extends the outer ring into the spinal canal.
  • Non-contained Disc: the inner core is no longer contained by the outer ring and a part of the inner core may detach itself into the spinal canal creating further complications.

The pain we experience from disc herniations is of various origins.

  • Pain can arise from the tearing of the pain sensitive outer ring.
  • Pain can also arise from the change in pressure in the disc and stretching of the surrounding spinal ligaments.
  • Pain occurs when the inner core protrudes out through the outer ring creating an inflammatory reaction which causes a spinal nerve to be irritated.
  • Larger herniations may be so big that they actually compress a spinal nerve or in more severe cases compress the spinal cord.

Disc herniations most commonly occur between 24-64 years (mean age 35 years) and studies have shown that they most commonly occur in the morning. Disc herniations occur most commonly in the neck and low back even though they could occur anywhere in the spine. As well as pain disc herniations can also produce tingling and numbness in the arms or legs. The pain from disc herniations is generally experienced in the neck or low back and then radiates from the neck to the shoulder and arm or from the back towards the hips and legs. However it is not always disc herniations that cause referred arm or leg pain. Therefore it is important to be checked by a chiropractor who can determine the cause through a history and physical examination.

There are a large number of people who have a disc herniation but are unaware as they have no symptoms and show no signs of one. In these cases the disc herniation is asymptomatic.

Exactly why some people suffer from a disc herniation is hard to say. There are some studies that show that there may be a genetic component, however there are some predisposing factors:

  • smoking
  • heavy manual work
  • repetitive bending and lifting
  • office work/prolonged sitting or sedentary life

While the pain gradually gets better it is important to keep oneself mobile, while avoiding lifting and bending. Bed rest is not recommended however, there needs to be a balance between modified physical activity and controlled rest. Your chiropractor can advice you more specifically.

vad ar diskbrack

It is advisable to visit a chiropractor if you are experiencing what could be a disc herniation or any other pain symptoms. A chiropractor will carry out a thorough physical examination that can determine whether you have a disc herniation, as well as locate the source of the pain and recommend a treatment plan. The aim of the treatment is to reduce pain, improve spinal function and movement, improve and balance muscle weaknesses and prevent reoccurrences.

Only a small number of disc herniations require any form of surgery, in these cases there may be signs of the following; bladder or bowel incontinence, increasing neurological deficits or failure to respond to conservative treatment. The majority of disc herinations can be managed with a combination of chiropractic care and rehabilitation training, which can also be recommended by your chiropractor.