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What is a herniated disc?
Invertebral discs are found between the bones of the spinal column. The discs provide cushioning and allow flexibility in the spine. These discs have a gel in the center called the nucleus. The outer part of the disc is composed of a strong fibrous tissue called fibrocartilage. Over time, or with a sudden trauma, the fibrocartilage of the disc can tear and the nucleus can bulge out. This is called a "herniated disc".
How are discs injured?
The discs are very strong when the spine is maintained in an upright position. However, bending forward and twisting the spine puts the discs in a vulnerable position. Care must be taken not to load the spine when it is in a bent or twisted position. Lifting even light objects such as groceries can cause damage to the discs when the back is in a compromised position.
A serious potential complication of damage to a disc is nerve compression. As the nerves exit the spine they pass very close to the discs. If a disc bulges toward one of the nerves, the nerve can become compressed. Some signs of nerve compression are numbness, weakness and pain. With nerve compression the symptoms are often experienced far away from the site of compression. For example, compression of the nerves in the low back can lead to symptoms in the lower legs and feet. It is important to seek care immediately if you suspect you may have nerve compression. Chiropractors are very well educated about the nervous system and potential signs of compression. They will perform a detailed assessment to determine which nerves are being compressed and provide a detailed plan to treat the problem. Your chiropractor may consult with other health professionals if the compression is significant. Conservative therapies such as chiropractic care are the primary treatment for most disc herniations. However, surgery may be necessary when serious never compression exists.
Chiropractic is important for restoring and maintaining the normal movement and health of the discs of the spine. Discs have no blood supply and so they get their nutrition only when water and nutrients diffuse from nearby tissue. The lack of blood supply leads to slow repair and a limited ability of the disc to heal. Movement speeds the flow of fluid and nutrients to the disc and is therefore essential to the restoration and maintenance of the health of the disc. Movement also strengthens the disc by lightly stressing new fibers as the disc is healing.
Chiropractic Care of the Disc has been shown to...
1. Provide fast symptom relief- chiropractic care is one of the most effective methods of relieving the painful symptoms associated with injury to the disc and structures of the low back.
2. Reduce stress on vulnerable discs- by restoring normal movement to the joints around the injured disc chiropractors can help to relieve stress on the injured area.
3. Enhance healing- by gently encouraging normal movement of the injured disc chiropractic care assists with its normal healing. Movement aids in bringing nutrients to the disc and facilitates the growth of strong tissue.
4. Maintain the health of the disc- by maintaining normal movement of the spine, chiropractic care supports the health of the discs and reduces the potential for damage.
It is far easier to prevent a disc herniation than it is to return an injured disc to health. One of the most common causes of injury to a disc is improper lifting.
Proper Lifting Technique
Bend at the knees and keep the back straight.
Never bend or twist while lifting
Avoid quick, jerking movements.
Keep the load close to the body.
Place heavier loads somewhere they will be easy to pick up.
If it is too heavy, get help.
Lift smart, use a pull cart or other equipment available.
Lift loads symmetrically- carry equal weight in each hand.
Think before you lift- many injuries occur when people get careless with everyday loads.
Make it a habit to always lift with proper posture.