Discs are located in between each vertebrae. The vertebral disc consists of the nucleus pulposus, which is a jellylike center, surrounded by the annulus fibrous, a rubbery cushion encasing the nucleus. A herniated disc occurs when a portion of the nucleus pushes through a tear in the annulus. In some cases, people do not experience any discomfort when this occurs. For others symptoms may develop as low back pain, pain in the buttocks, thigh, calf or even foot or if it occurs in the neck the patient may have neck pain, shoulder pain, arm pain and may travel down into the fingers. In addition numbness, tingling or weakness may take place.
Disc bulge or disc derangement is when the disc becomes compressed and bulges out of its normal placement. However, the inner portion (nucleus pulposus) stays within the outer region of the disc (annulus fibrosus).
Herniated disc occurs when the nucleus pulposus breaks through the torn annulus fibrous and lies outside the disc, in some cases this can induce pressure to the spinal nerve.
Disc prolapse takes place if the disc changes position causing a slight impingement into the spinal canal and possibly spinal nerve, often referred to as a protrusion.
Disc extrusion or sequestration develops when the nucleus pulposus breaks entirely through the annulus fibrous and separates from the disc itself. If the portion that broke off is small enough the body may absorb the extrusion, however large extrusion often needs to be removed by surgery.
These are often stages of disc issues and the progression of degenerative disc disease.
Disc conditions often derives from age related wear and tear or degeneration. Repetitive stress and aging cause weakness and inflexibility which over time may lead to shifting, tearing or rupturing of the nucleus, even with minor straining or twisting.
- Poor nutrition: poor general health, missing key nutrients for bone and muscle health
- Occupation: chronic overload of the disc, physically demanding jobs where there is repetitive lifting, pulling, pushing, bending and twisting or prolonged sitting.
- Genetics: some people inherit congenital defects or a predisposition to developing disc problems.
- Poor posture: including muscle imbalances, poor body mechanics when lifting or sitting, tight hamstrings also known as anterior pelvic tilt
- Lack of exercise: poor core body strength
- Trauma: such as a fall or an automobile accident
First, it’s important to know what type of disc condition you have. Then the goal is always to stop, reduce or mitigate the progress of the disc condition. All too often, patients with disc conditions experience disc issues multiple times by not fully resolving the issues that caused the problem. This includes patients that have undergone surgery for disc issues.
In the acute phase it is important to centralize and reduce pain and inflammation. Patients often use NSAIDs during this phase, which is only appropriate for a very short period of time. It’s important to note that NSAIDs can often slow down the healing process and should be taken in moderation. As an alternative or in addition to, Dr. Nathan Eldredge at Alta Mountain chiropractic recommends regenerative therapies that induce the body’s healing response; such as supplements, Prolozone and Homeopathic injections.
Rest and ice or cold packs can give symptomatic relief. Limit the ice or cold packs to 15-minute increments the first 48 hours of onset. Subsequently applying heat for 15 minutes once per hour is most helpful in the healing process.
Lumbar or cervical stabilization along with decompressing the nerve root to reduce the herniation is necessary. This is frequently done through spinal decompression or spinal distraction. In conjunction, making sure to have good lumbar support while sitting is important.
Restoring good biomechanics through spinal manipulation is very helpful with disc herniations or disc conditions. Dr. Nathan Eldredge understands that disc patients are in a high amount of pain when they come to our office. So, he evaluates when to start spinal manipulations/adjustments and only starts with gentle adjusting techniques when the patient is ready.
Evaluating for muscle imbalances is very important. Many of our patients here at Alta Mountain Chiropractic are given exercises or stretches to do at home that will help stretch sore and tight muscles in addition to strengthening the focused area. These exercises should be performed without pain, although some degree of soreness is to be expected after exercise. Maintaining good posture while sitting or lifting will help future problems from arising.
Massage therapy, including myofascial release, trigger point therapy, relaxation massage and more can be very beneficial for disc patients when the time is right. Initially, a new hot disc may not be able to endure a massage due to muscle spasming or pain. However, as the patient improves with their condition, massage can be incredibly beneficial. We have fantastic Massage Therapists here at Alta Mountain, that discuss your condition and particular needs with Dr. Nathan Eldredge to get the best treatment possible.
Physical exercise or movement is very important in the healing process. Such as walking, swimming or biking as tolerated. It is recommended to do some sort of mild aerobic activity for up to 20 minutes at a time within the first week. Prolonged sitting or laying down without much motion slows healing.
Imaging such as X-rays or MRI may or may not be needed depending on the case and presentation of the patient. Dr. Nathan Eldredge will do a thorough exam and determine at your first visit if imaging is needed to treat your condition.
If you are suffering from neck pain, low back pain or disc herniation please give us a call at 801-523-2582 so that we can start helping you with this serious condition right away.