Treating Disc Problems Spinal discs are sensitive, spongy pads found between the specialized bones (called the vertebrae) of the spinal column. Also called intervertebral discs, each is a flat, circular capsule about an inch in diameter and one-quarter inch thick. Discs have tough outer membranes (the annulus fibrous) and elastic cores (the nucleus pulpous). Their main functions are to act as shock absorbers for the spine during movement and to hold the highly pressurized spine center in place.

As children, the spinal discs are fluid-filled sacs that start to solidify as part of the normal aging process. By early adulthood, the blood supply stops and the soft inner material hardens. By middle age, our discs are hard, almost like a piece of hard rubber. This is why adults are prone to disc injury and degeneration.

Disc Herniation: "Slipped" and "Bulging" Discs

Discs are firmly embedded between the vertebrae and held in place by ligaments connecting the spinal bones and muscle. There is little room for discs to "slip." A "bulging" or herniated disc however, can occur when gel or fluid pushes out through a crack in the exterior. This can irritate nearby nerves and result in pain, numbness or weakness in an arm or leg. Many people, however, experience no symptoms from a herniated disc.

There are two types of herniated discs: protrusions and prolapses. A protrusion can occur if the disc bulges, pushing it out of shape. A prolapsed disc is one that bulges out so much, it actually separates from the rest of the discs. In this scenario if the disc pushes on the spinal cord or puts pressure on nerves, it causes severe pain that makes regular daily activities such as sitting, standing, walking, lifting, using the bathroom, sneezing or coughing very difficult. Foot or leg numbness or a loss of muscle control may also occur. Only a small number of those with low back pain have serious disc problems.

Signs and Symptoms 

Below are signs of potential spinal disc issues:

  • Tenderness or stiffness of spine
  • Leg, buttock, foot pain
  • Shoulder, neck or arm pain with certain movements
  • Numbness, tingling or weakness in body parts served by affected nerves

Chiropractic Treatment:

Chiropractic care is a safe and effective way to treat herniated and bulging disc problems. By utilizing a comprehensive report of the patient's history, performing a physical examination and potentially taking digital images, a chiropractic doctor will diagnose what type of disc problem may be occurring. In some cases, your chiropractor may need an MRI to be able to prescribe a suitable treatment plan specific to your needs including adjustments and therapeutic exercises. In many cases, surgery and injections should be considered your last option due to the risks and side effects involved.

Make an appointment to talk to a chiropractic doctor about chiropractic and disc problems.

Read on to learn more:

Chiropractic treatment of cervical radiculopathy caused by a herniated cervical disc (Abstract), Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 1994

Spinal Disc Problems, American Chiropractic Association, accessed 2015

Treatment of symptomatic lumbar disc herniation using activator methods chiropractic technique (Abstract), Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 1998

Chiropractic management and manipulative therapy for MRI documented cervical disc herniation (Abstract), Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 1994

Treatment of symptomatic lumbar disc herniation using activator methods chiropractic technique (Abstract), Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 1998

Management of cervical disc herniation with upper cervical chiropractic care (Abstract), Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 1998