A vertebral disc problem can present itself with many different signs and symptoms, varying in severity. For this reason, not all disc problems are treated the same, or have the same prognosis.The facts about disc problems:
- Not all herniated and bulging discs cause pain – Most are actually not symptomatic and many are misdiagnosed.
- Surgery or non-surgical spinal decompression is usually required to correct a herniated disc – In most cases, surgery actually offers poor results for a herniated disc (current studies find that 74% of all back surgeries fail).
- Herniated Discs can worsen with time (due to continued over-activity and stress to the spine) and can lead to degenerative disc disease.
- Most herniated discs won’t resolve on their own – Pain may subside due to posture and structural compensation.
- Herniated discs cannot be diagnosed with x-ray – You need an MRI.
- Herniated discs can occur due to a spinal rotational decompensation caused by a pelvis misalignment, injuries/trauma, or repetitive stress/activities.
- Medical treatment is not necessary for most herniated discs.
MRIs of a group of middle aged (average 45 years) individuals who have NEVER experienced back pain showed the following:
- 38% had disc bulges,
- 37% disc protrusions (aka: contained herniations),
- 11% disc extrusions (aka: non-contained herniations),
- 0% disc sequestrations (aka: free fragments) and
- 4% nerve root compression by the disc herniation.
This means, more than 60% of asymptomatic middle aged people may have findings of disc bulge, or worse (protrusion, extrusion) on MRI!
51% of disc patients find relief with William’s flexion exercise protocols, while 49% receive more relief with McKenzie’s extension exercise protocols. For this reason, all disc injuries are not treated as equals!
Chiropractors will use special adjusting techniques, such as Cox Flexion-Distraction, pain relief therapies, and exercises to treat patients with disc injuries.
Exercises should be done in the doctor’s office first to establish the best exercises for each patient and insure proper technique. Exercises are a great way that patients can help the progress of their care outside of the doctor’s office.
If you are experiencing back or neck pain that radiates into the arms or legs, or even numbness and weakness, please see your chiropractor for proper diagnosis and treatment. Many disc conditions can be treated in the office, although some individuals may need to be referred to a Medical or Osteopathic Physician for additional diagnostic imaging and treatment (usually more severe cases).