For many decades, most back pain was believed to be caused by “slipped” or “torn” discs. We now know this not to be true. Disc problems constitute only a small portion of the causes of back pain and rarely require surgery for pain relief.
What are spinal discs?
Spinal discs are thick ligament-like outer rings, also known as annuli fibrosis, that attach to the top and bottom of each vertebra. The discs provide shock absorption, protecting the spinal cord and ensuring flexibility of the spine.
A disc protrusion/extrusion, also called “herniation,” is a more significant injury, when the fibers of an annulus are completely or significantly torn and some of the nucleus leaks through. A herniation can also be painful and may even cause nerve compression. In the most severe cases, the spinal cord can become compressed.
How are disc problems diagnosed?
- Disc problems are most often diagnosed through a thorough history and physical examination, including assessment of your nervous and musculoskeletal systems. We will likely move your back and arms and legs into various positions while applying pressure to your joints.
- Plain film x-rays are helpful in some forms of disc problems.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
How are disc problems treated?
- Most disc problems are easily treated with conservative interventions. Early in the course of an acute injury, we will likely use several different physical modalities to control pain.
- Both ice and heat have shown effectiveness in managing the pain of acute low-back injury.
- Getting back on your feet and moving is critical. Typically, the less time you spend in bed, the better off you are. If you “baby” your back, in most cases, the long-term results will be worse.
- Chiropractic spinal manipulation has been demonstrated to be a safe and effective tool in the management of disc problems, especially when combined with therapeutic exercise. We will likely prescribe both for you.
- In most circumstances, spine surgery and injections are not necessary in the management of disc problems—and they often cause more problems than they’re worth.
Can disc problems be prevented?
- Stay physically active and exercise regularly. This generally means performing general fitness exercises, such as walking, running, and swimming. We can design a specific exercise regimen to fit your needs.
- Make a conscious effort to maintain correct posture when you sit, stand, lie down, work and exercise.
- When lifting objects, bend your knees, keep the object close to your body, keep your back straight and lift with your legs. Never lift an object by bending over and twisting. You’ll only invite a back injury.
If you think you may have a herniated disc, please do not hesitate to contact us. We’re here to help! We serve patients in Leesburg, Virginia and surrounding areas.