A spinal disc herniation, more commonly known as a slipped disc, occurs when some of the outer ligamentous fibers (annular fibers) of the intervertebral discs of the spine tear. This tear allows the soft central portion of the disc, called the nucleus pulposis, to leak out and put pressure on the adjacent spinal nerve(s). This injury is common for those whose occupation requires them to lift heavy loads or frequently bend and twist. Age and repetitive stress can also cause disc herniations, disc bulges and disc degeneration. When these conditions reduce the space required for spinal nerves, the result is spinal stenosis.
Herniated discs commonly occur in the lower back, with the greatest frequency at the L4/5 and L5/S1 levels. These herniations commonly radiate pain, tingling and numbness down the leg, a condition known as sciatica. Disc herniation can also occur in the neck, usually at the C5/6 and C6/7 levels. These herniations can radiate pain down to the upper back, shoulder and arm, and often result in numbness in the fingers.
Unrelenting pain, often severe enough to incapacitate the sufferer, is common in an acute disc herniation. The pressure on the nerve that causes the pain can also cause extreme stiffness or muscle spasms. The abnormal pressure on the nerve may also cause antalgia, which is when the body is bent forward at the waist. The patient may even feel like their hips are uneven, or that their upper body has shifted over the pelvis, thus feeling ‘crooked’. A common symptom of a lumbar disc herniation is the inability to stand up straight without additional pain. Trying to straighten up may be especially difficult in the mornings or after sitting.
At our offices, a careful examination by a board certified chiropractor is performed in order to provide an accurate diagnosis. Once the proper diagnosis is made, the most effective treatment plan will be prescribed. Treatment may consist of therapeutic modalities to reduce inflammation and muscle tightness. Cox flexion-distraction manipulation is a gentle, safe, effective and highly researched technique used to help correct slipped discs. At our offices, we have the latest state-of-the-art Cox tables which are designed to treat disc problems, not just in the lower back, but also in the neck. This method helps to decompress the discs, taking the pressure off the spinal nerves and allowing the center of the disc to return to its proper location. The goal of the treatment is to reduce pain, strengthen the injured area, return patients to their usual activities, and ultimately to prevent surgery.
Please go to our section on pinched nerves for more specific information on the symptoms of herniated discs. For more information on Cox flexion-distraction, including links to extensive research regarding the technique, go to the flexion distraction page on our website.