Intervertebral discs, commonly referred to as “discs,” are structures made of tough cartilage which are in between the vertebrae of the spine. Discs have numerous functions such as creating stability within the spine, helping to guide movement of the spine, and also serving as shock absorbers.
The outer aspect of the disc is made up of a series of flexible cartilage rings. The easiest way to imagine this is to picture the inside of an onion which has been cut in half. In the very center of the disc there is a jelly-like substance called a nucleus. Over time, for a variety of reasons, tears will form in the rings of the disc and the nucleus will be forced through these tears until they are bulging against the outer edge of the disc. This is called a disc bulge or herniation. Disc bulges can range in severity from only minor tears to significant bulging where the jelly-like nucleus is forced out of the disc altogether. Nerves exiting the spine can also be compressed by a disc bulge. These injuries most commonly occur in the neck and lower back.
Symptoms of a disc bulge vary greatly. Significant stiffness and pain may be the only symptoms present. The pain may shoot into the arms or legs depending upon the location of the injury. Pain may increase with coughing or sneezing. Symptoms from a disc bulge often present rapidly and can result from activities that are in no way strenuous.
A common misconception is that disc bulges or herniations can only be treated via surgery. However, the vast majority of these injuries can be corrected conservatively without surgery or injections. At Motus Integrative Health we take a multi-faceted approach to treatment. We first perform a thorough examination to determine if treatment is appropriate at that time. X-rays or an MRI may be ordered to evaluate further. Chiropractic adjustments are often performed to increase range of motion and decrease pain. Specific range of motion exercises may be given to perform at home in an attempt to move the nucleus back into the center of the disc so that proper healing can occur. We then take measures to prevent the same injury from occurring in the future.
Disc bulges are frequently misdiagnosed as muscle strains which can lead to improper treatment and worsening of the injury. An incorrect diagnosis also makes recurrences more likely in the future. Please contact our office if you are experiencing stiffness or pain in the spine.
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