What is a Herniated Disc?

What is an intervertebral disc?

The spinal cord is surrounded and protected by vertebrae, or the bones of the spine. In between each vertebra is a cushion called an intervertebral disc.  The intervertebral discs, which are soft and gel like on the inside and more tough and fibrous on the outside, act to cushion and absorb impact placed on the vertebra, and allow proper range of motion in the spine.

What is a herniated disc?


A herniated disc can put pressure of nerves, causing pain.

A herniated disc (often called a ruptured or slipped disc) can naturally occur as we age, but it can also be caused by damage or injury to the spine.  When this occurs, the gel-like material inside the spinal disc protrudes or ruptures through the fibrous outer layer of the disc.  Many people experience herniated discs and have no pain or symptoms.  However, when the protruded material presses on a nerve, it can cause pain, numbness and weakness.  Where these symptoms occur depends on where the herniated disc is located.  Most herniated discs occur in the lumbar spine (lower back), followed by the cervical spine (neck), and rarely in the thoracic spine (chest). A herniated disc in the lumbar region can cause pain that travels down the back and through the legs, also known as radiculopathy (although commonly thought of as sciatica).  A herniated disc in the cervical spine can cause pain in the neck that travels down the arms.

How can a herniated disc be treated?

In most cases, a herniated disc can be treated through conservative interventions. The first thing to keep in mind is to stay as active as is comfortable.  Resting for too long can cause the pain to worsen.  Applying heat or ice for periods of 15-20 minutes to the affected area can help ease your symptoms.  In rare cases, prescription medications, such as narcotics or muscle relaxants can be used when other options are not effective.

Chiropractic care can be beneficial in the treatment of a herniated disc, and is specified for your individual needs.  Chiropractic treatment for a herniated disc can include designing an exercise program that helps to build strength in the affected area, and to prevent future injuries.  Spinal manipulation can be beneficial to a herniated disc, by allowing pressure to be relieved from the surrounding nerves, therefore reducing pain.  If you believe you may be suffering from a herniated disc, please feel free to contact our office at 415-788-8700 to schedule a consultation and find a solution that is right for you.



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