At Barley Wellness, our chiropractors treat disc injuries every day. Lower back pain is the number #1 cause of disability in America, affecting more than 80% of people at some point during their lives. There are many different causes of lower back pain, such as muscle strain or vertebral subluxation, but one of the causes of more severe lower back pain is an injury to an intervertebral disc.
Before discussing what causes disc injuries and what effective treatments are, it is crucial to understand what happens in the disc when it becomes injured. Intervertebral discs are made of fibrocartilage and rest between each vertebra in the spine. They act as shock absorbers in the spine, absorbing the stress and pressure that everyday life places on our spine. The disc is made of a jelly-like center called the nucleus, surrounded by several cartilage rings. The nucleus moves with our movements to provide continued balance and force absorption to keep our spine healthy and strong.
Due to prolonged causes, such as repetitive movements, or more immediate causes, such as trauma, the rings of cartilage can be damaged. When this happens, the disc’s nucleus takes the path of least resistance and pushes into the damaged space. This is typically not symptomatic, so the individual would not know at this time that a disc injury was occurring. As this condition progresses and damage is sustained to the last ring of cartilage, the disc material pushes out from the disc into the spinal canal, where the spinal cord and nerves are located. This can be extremely painful in the lower back and can even cause pain to travel down the legs (sciatica).
Traditional medicine treats disc herniation using medications as strong as opioids, steroid injections, or surgical intervention if less invasive treatments are unsuccessful. Chiropractic is an effective and least invasive treatment that gets to the root of the problem. At Barley Wellness, we treat disc injuries daily and are ready to help you. At this time, immediate intervention is required to have the best prognosis going forward.
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How Our Disc Injury Care Plan Works
We Will Tell You If We Can Help
A chiropractor will also let you know if we can’t help and advise or refer you to a health care provider that can. We do a thorough complimentary consultation and, if we can help, a comprehensive examination that may include x-rays or other diagnostics.
A Customized Treatment Plan
We use the data collected from our consultation and examination and provide you with a written Report of Findings that your chiropractor explains. We will design a customized care plan that reflects your unique body and situation.
Get Back to Your Life
We initially expect your pain to subside quickly and your overall function and health to undergo correction. A chiropractor works to correct the underlying cause of the problem to fix that “leaky” roof, rather than just place buckets to collect the water.
How We Treat Disc Injury in Fairhaven, MA
Comprehensive Consultation and Exam
It is crucial to begin treatment as quickly as possible for a disc injury. Before that happens, we must perform a detailed consultation and exam. Our chiropractors must understand your condition and unique situation to determine if proceeding with treatment is appropriate. Our doctors want to understand your history and how the injury was sustained. This information helps determine effective care recommendations.
After the consultation, the doctor will perform an examination to determine the cause of your condition further. They will perform orthopedic, neurologic, and functional movement tests to assess the problem and rule in or rule out other possible causes. The consultation and exam are designed to give our providers the clearest picture of what is happening and what needs to be done. The sooner this process starts, the sooner they can get you on the path to healing and back to the life you want to live.
Specific Chiropractic Care
Chiropractic care is one of the best ways to naturally treat disc injuries because it goes straight to the source of the problem and seeks to correct it. With disc injuries, subluxation of the adjacent vertebrae is also present. The chiropractic adjustment not only corrects the subluxation but also promotes movement of the disc material back to its correct position between the two vertebrae.
Bear in mind that these subluxations were likely present long before the disc injury occurred, so they are not used to being in the correct alignment. Over time, the body gets used to the proper alignment, which helps prevent pain from returning in the future. Chiropractic adjustments are both quick and gentle. It does not take a lot of force to adjust somebody’s spine, especially with the proper technique. This is important because people with disc injuries are typically in a lot of pain.
Custom Therapeutic Exercise Plan
Muscle weakness or imbalance is a common reason discs are susceptible to injury over time. The muscles surrounding and supporting the spine are supposed to stabilize the spine, including the discs. When these muscles are weak, however, the instability in the spine makes it more likely that injury can occur to the discs. At Barley Wellness, we utilize exercise to help build a solid foundation for the spine to improve mobility and stability and protect the spine from future injury.
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Common Causes of Disc Injury in Fairhaven, MA
Spinal discs wear and tear with age. Over time, discs will dehydrate, and the outer layer of cartilage will stiffen. These changes can cause the outer layer of the disc to bulge out. Some protruding discs can be painless, but if the disc bulges out enough, it can irritate nearby nerves leading to numbness, tingling, weakness, cramping, spasms, and shooting pain.
Age is the most significant risk factor for a bulged disc, making it more common in older people than younger people. Improper lifting techniques, accumulated trauma from poor posture, obesity, genetics, or acute trauma can lead to bulging discs.
Bulged discs can worsen to the point of rupture and cause serious symptoms. A disc herniation is more likely to cause pain than a bulged disc. A disc herniates when the outer layer of cartilage tears and the softer, inner gelatinous material protrudes out of the disc. The disc’s nucleus will irritate nerve roots causing painful inflammation that could affect your ability to walk or change your bowel and bladder function.
Degenerative Disc Disease
One of the most common types of disc injuries isn’t generally considered to be an acute onset problem. Degenerative disc disease is an age-related condition in which the discs of the spine wear down over time and get smaller. We often look at X-rays of elderly patients where one joint has degenerated drastically more than the rest of the surrounding joints. This is evidence a subluxation of those vertebrae started a long-term degenerative process. When this happens, the holes on the side of the spine through which nerves exit get smaller, which can put pressure on these nerves and cause symptoms. Besides repetitive motion and wear and tear, other risk factors that accelerate its progression include being overweight/obese and smoking. Common symptoms include lower back pain, but radiating pain down into the hips and legs can also be felt depending on how much the nerves are affected.
It’s important to understand that Degenerative Disc Disease is irreversible. However, we can manage it by slowing down its progression. Chiropractic care, massage, and exercise are three fantastic treatment options that can improve your range of motion, decrease pain, and increase your overall function. Since we cannot fully correct the condition, the goal becomes achieving and maintaining the highest quality of life possible. A chiropractic lifestyle can help make that a reality for you or someone you know who suffers from degenerative disc disease.
A herniated disc is often referred to as a slipped disc. When the outer cartilage becomes weak and tears, the inner gelatinous center of the disc can “slip” out. The length of time the vertebrae have been injured or subluxated is a primary factor in this condition because of general wear and tear on the disc, but certain repetitive motions or improper lifting techniques increase the risk of a slipped disc. An untreated herniated or slipped disc can lead to permanent nerve damage, that’s why it’s so important to have any discomfort examined by a chiropractor who can perform imaging if necessary to get to the root cause of any symptomatic pain.
Repetitive Motion and Stress
As was mentioned earlier, disc injuries are commonly the result of a gradual process of wear and tear on the cartilage rings surrounding the nucleus. It isn’t so much the incident when you felt a pain that is the cause, but rather the thousands of movements before that which slowly caused damage over time.
For this reason, certain fields of work tend to have more disc injuries than others. One example is hard labor jobs, such as roofers, mechanics, and laborers. These jobs frequently require lots of bending, lifting, and twisting motions throughout each shift.
Putting the spine in flexion forward and rotation simultaneously is the primary mechanism through which disc bulges and herniations can happen. The stress and pressure placed on these discs make them vulnerable and weak over time, where a simple motion can be the final straw that starts a cascade of pain and suffering. If you do this work for a living, being conscious of your posture and how you move and lift things is paramount to your safety and productivity at work.
Lifting weights is an excellent form of exercise that provides numerous physical and mental health benefits. However, heavy lifting also places a great deal of stress on the body, especially on the spine. Our spine is always bearing the weight of our head plus the weight of gravity. When we add weight on top of that, we increase the load on the discs in our spine. Performing heavy lifts sharply increases intra-abdominal pressure, which also increases pressure in the spine. If there is pre-existing weakness in the discs, then the likelihood that they will bulge or herniate drastically increases. It is crucial to have your spine adjusted to prevent disc injury in the gym. Lifting in the gym is important, so your body is ready to lift and perform your activities of daily living without getting hurt.
It’s important to remember that heavy lifting doesn’t just occur in the gym. People move furniture around their houses or move houses altogether. There are many circumstances in which lifting is necessary. Lifting improperly, though, then the discs are at increased risk of getting injured in the process. Lifting should always be done primarily with the legs rather than bending at the waist and using the back. This is the best way to avoid unnecessary stress on your lower back. Barley Wellness will help you with your exercise goals to gradually improve your health.
It is important to remember that disc injuries can happen in parts of the spine other than the lower back. The cervical spine (neck) is also commonplace where disc injury occurs. One common cause of disc injury in the neck is auto accidents, especially when whiplash is involved. Whiplash occurs when the head moves violently back and forth in response to the impact of an auto accident. It damages the muscles and ligaments around the cervical spine and can even cause damage to the discs as well. Symptoms can include neck pain, arm pain, numbness, tingling, burning, or weakness.
Barley Wellness can provide the care you need after your accident to get you back to pre-accident status (how you felt just before the accident occurred). We will work with insurance companies and attorneys alike to ensure that the process is smooth and stress-free for you, which will help maximize and accelerate your recovery.
In the midst of a pandemic, the world is very clued in on respiratory diseases such as COVID-19, the flu, and the common cold. Everyone is hyper-aware of each and every symptom they are experiencing. With respiratory illnesses such as these, it is widely known that two of the most common symptoms are coughing and sneezing. Unfortunately, these two activities can cause problems for the intervertebral discs in the spine.
Coughing and sneezing are two actions that require a sharp increase in intra-abdominal pressure. An increase in intra-abdominal pressure leads to increased pressure in the spine and, therefore, in the discs. If damage is already sustained to a disc, a bout of coughing or sneezing lasting a few weeks can cause further disc injury due to the constant spinal pressure. If you feel this may have happened to you, Barley Wellness is here to help. Provided, of course, that you are now symptom-free following your illness.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can chiropractors in Fairhaven, MA help with disc injury problems?
100%. Our doctors care for people with disc injuries daily. Our combination of treatments available at Barley Wellness makes us a premier destination for addressing this type of problem. Chiropractic, exercise, massage, deep tissue laser, and spinal decompression are some of the many services we offer to help naturally address your disc injury.
How long does it take for a disc injury to heal?
The length of time it takes for a disc injury to heal can vary greatly depending on the extent of the damage and the age of the problem, among other factors. Older, chronic issues take longer than newer, acute problems. Your chiropractor will discuss treatment recommendations and how your progress will be documented so that the time frame for care can be more clearly known.
Is it safe to go to a chiropractor with a herniated disc?
Yes! In fact, it is recommended that you visit the chiropractor because if they can help you with this problem without the need for expensive and risky medical procedures, then it is a no-brainer. More invasive treatment methods are always an option, but you should start with the most conservative treatment and work your way from there.
What are the signs of a herniated disc in your back?
Signs and symptoms can vary from person to person, but generally speaking, herniated discs are known to cause intense, electric shock-like pain down into the legs due to how they affect the nerve. With herniations, there usually is not very much back pain due to the disc material pushing through that last layer of cartilage in the disc, but in some instances, it can be present.
Can chiropractors in Fairhaven, MA make disc injury worse?
The great news about chiropractic is that the worst-case scenario from treatment for a disc injury is that no change happens. Chiropractic will not worsen this problem, but it may not be effective for a particular case. In these cases, other types of intervention need to be considered. Most people will respond favorably to chiropractic for their disc injuries.