The discs between the bones of our spine are filled with a jelly-like fluid. It functions to absorb shock and assist our body’s movement in all directions, protecting the nerves that pass from our spine to the rest of our body as we sit, walk, run, jump, or exercise.
Herniated disc or slip disc is when the disc in our spine bulges from its normal position and pinches on a nerve which causes severe back pain.
Herniated discs can occur anywhere along the spine, but slipped discs most typically occur at the neck (C5, C6, C7) and lower back (L5, S1); and less commonly the mid back (thoracic herniated disc).
When the load exceeds what the discs can handle (e.g. suddenly picking something up, a sneeze, even brushing your teeth), a herniation of the disc can occur.
Something called an “annular tear” may also happen, where the disc doesn’t bulge out, but a small tear may occur in the disc, causing pain. If not taken care of, it may lead to a herniated disc.
Slipped discs are most common in people aged (but not limited to) between 30 and 50. They affect twice as many men as women and are not limited to their occupation. Although, more strenuous careers involving heavy lifting or long hours standing or sitting have a higher risk of getting herniated discs.
Here at Spinefit, we have treated Practice Members as young as 19 years old and as old as 80 years old from slipped discs
Here are some of the common signs and symptoms of someone who might have a slipped disc:
Getting a slipped disc back into place can depend on the severity of the slipped disc so that the best type of non-surgical intervention for herniated disc relief can be chosen!
Treatments would vary depending on the severity of herniated disc. Here’s what you can expect from chiropractic and physiotherapy treatment for the respective severity:
Chiropractic care and physiotherapy rehabilitation for disc degeneration is the first line of treatment because it can help gain back the mobility of the restricted and narrowed spinal joints which are not moving well. This helps the compressed discs improve their circulation and nourish it.
Herniated disc relief when the disc is prolapsed often looks like releasing the tight muscles around the back through soft tissue techniques, chiropractic adjustments to help gain back the mobility of the spinal levels which are affected, and physiotherapy exercises to strengthen those muscles around the spine. This helps to prevent the prolapsed disc from becoming worse.
Rehabilitation will include the use of EMS to relieve pain caused by sensitised nerves, and ice to bring the inflammation down. Gentle stabilisation exercises will be given progressively which helps to stabilise the spine, and spinal decompression creates more ‘height’ in the spine to encourage the extruded material to return to its normal position. Gentle chiropractic care can also provide a lot of relief as pain subsides and movement is gained back.
Rehabilitative exercises play a role in increasing the strength of the spinal muscles to help absorb loads when a person is going about their daily life. Maintenance chiropractic care every 6-8 weeks goes a long way in keeping the spine moving well too. A strong and non-restricted spine helps to take the tension and load of the spinal discs!
If you are feeling sore and stiff in the spine from degeneration, medications are usually not recommended at this stage, and neither is surgery. While severe degeneration often is not reversible, the symptoms can often be relieved through consistent movement and strength of the spinal muscles.
Painful symptoms may be aided through the use of NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) or painkillers in the first few weeks of recovery where needed and if safe to take. Surgery is often not needed at this stage.
While some specialists opt for surgery at this stage due to the severe symptoms a patient may feel, most will choose to refer their patients for conservative care first before choosing surgery. This is mostly decided from the severity of symptoms – if the individual is not experiencing bowel/bladder/sexual dysfunction and there is no saddle anaesthesia, conservative care can help to relieve herniated disc symptoms without the complications and risks that surgery can bring. NSAIDs and painkillers are used in the first few weeks of recovery where needed
As mentioned, sequestered discs can often have no symptoms depending on where the spinal fragment has migrated to! 66.66% of these types of disc herniations can spontaneously resorb which means that they are naturally chemically broken down and re-absorbed by the body over time. Again, like the extruded slipped disc, surgery or medication is only recommended when there are severe symptoms. Otherwise, conservative care is the first line of treatment
If you experience any of the herniated disc symptoms, contact your personal doctor or spine specialist immediately for extra assurance. We advise to not wait until the herniated disc pain becomes more severe. The sooner you see your doctor, the better are your chances to heal without any surgical procedures.
Although there is no single exercise or treatment to prevent a herniated disc, understanding the right postures, movements, and taking regular care of your spine as it undergoes the daily stresses of work and life will go a long way in preventing the occurrence of slipped discs. Read about our prevention tips on how to avoid getting a herniated disc.
If you are suspecting that you have a slipped disc or herniated disc and wondering what does a slipped disc feel like, recall whether you have:
If you suspect that you might have a slipped disc, here are some simple steps you can do to check if it results in any sharp or shooting pain.
Both of these actions increase the intrathecal pressure in the spine and protruding disc, so that it causes more compression on the nerve.
However, after doing this self-check, it is advised to still consult with a primary healthcare provider or make an appointment with us for further clarification and examination.
At Spinefit, we make sure to perform a thorough initial consultation to identify the severity of slipped disc symptoms that you are experiencing and whether any X-rays or referrals to do an MRI is needed. If you are experiencing any symptoms related to a herniated disc and/or are worried if you require any form of treatment to maintain your spinal health, our certified professionals are ready to help assess and provide the right treatments for you!
Begin your recovery journey today by contacting us for an appointment.