What is exactly a herniated disc?

It is a problem with one of the rubbery discs that sit between two strong vertebrae. These two strong vertebrae hold the disk in between. Sometimes, this disc can start to move and shift. This can happen if you place some extra stress on that disc through some sort of movement or impingement. Sometimes, this moving or shifting can lead to feeling back pain and even radiating pain.

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Can a herniated disc heal on its own once you do have it? 

The simple answer to this question is sometimes it can and sometimes it can’t. It depends on how significant the herniation is. A smaller herniation can tend to go away on its own. While a moderate to a bigger herniation can cause a little bit of extra stress. In that case, you may need some outside help, and that’s where Chiropractic comes in.

Can a chiropractor heal a herniated disc?

Yes, the chiropractor uses a series of techniques to heal a herniated disc. About 70% of these discs are made of water and as they are alive, they can regrow. Doctors then put the disc back into place. But it’s not as simple as just kind of poking it back in. A chiropractor will use some techniques to guide the disc to go back in between the two vertebrae. Now, the techniques that a chiropractor can use will vary.

The most common technique is the deflection distraction technique, which makes use of a chiropractic table. The Chiropractic table will move up and down at the posterior end, where the lower back is. The pumping mechanism of the table will allow the nutrients to flow to the disc. It will also allow the water and the nutrients to get to the disc for its proper healing. So, an MRI is the best way to diagnose a herniated disk than an X-ray. An X-ray will only look at the bone while an MRI will look at the water weight. And so the expert will be able to see the soft tissue through that.

The experts look at the vertebrae bones and the spine in the MRI. If they find lesser room between the two vertebrae, that means the disc has kind of pushed out. The experts want to bring the disc back in over some time. They can do it through this flexion-distraction and the pumping mechanism of elongating the spine. Experts give some exercises and stretches that are in conjunction with the injury. The recovery time may vary depending on the severity of the discs and the exercises.

What activities should you do or which ones should you avoid? 

Let’s start with the avoiding ones, which will be any sort of high-impact exercises. So don’t get involved in running, jumping, box jumps, and jump rope in case of a herniated disc. The pounding and the high impact of these exercises will cause more stress at that level. Exercises and stretches that may be more indicated may be low-force ones, for example, the Cat-Cow stretch or a forward fold. These exercises kind of decompress the lower back and take pressure off the disc. The common one we recommend for patients is to lie on their stomachs on a fitness ball. This exercise can help to open up the back. It can also open up the disk space to give it a little bit more room. So these are activities which you can do but again, it’s all on a case-by-case basis.

Can you massage a herniated disk?

Unfortunately, no. The disc is deep enough that our hands can’t necessarily reach it. But these exercises and stretches and therapies will help in a more non-direct way.

What is the most common treatment for a herniated disc? 

Preference is given to flexion-distraction and chiropractic adjustments for the herniated disc. In case of any radiating pain or nerve pain, acupuncture can work for that injury. The treatments for nerve pain depend on where the nerve pain is. A lot of times, nerve pain paired with your herniated disc could be nerve impingement.

Once the herniated disc gets pushed on and squeezed, it can start to push out along the adjacent nerves. These nerves can start to cause pain down the arms or even down the legs. Nerve pain indicates that your herniated disc was a little bit more significant. And hence it needs a little bit more attention.

The nerve pinched can present in many different ways. It can be a sharp shooting pain, it can be numbness, it can be a tingling, and it can be muscle weakness or fatigue. For example, if it’s sharp shooting pain down the leg, that would be called sciatica pain and that would be the sciatic nerve. If it’s going down the posterior part of the leg, sometimes there’s a weakness in the leg, and experts can check that with muscle testing. Sometimes they may see that the herniated disc is causing numbness down at the feet. It can be a case of some nerve impingement. Here, the nerves do not get the proper flow, and doctors should address this at that time. And for that, experts start to add in other therapies such as laser therapy and acupuncture. These are good adjacent or complementary therapies if you have the nerve portion as part of your herniated disc issue.

What is the treatment for an L5-S1 herniation?

An L5-S1 herniation means that there’s a herniated disk at the lowest part of your back. Now, that can cause impingement of a nerve or a series or a bundle of nerves. Sometimes with L5-S1 herniation, you’re going to see a sciatica impingement or the sciatic nerve being impinged. This can cause sharp shooting pains down the posterior of the leg. And this pain can go all the way down to the foot. Now, there are treatments for this as well. Of course, chiropractic is going to be number one. Chiropractors make sure that they take pressure off the disk through chiropractic manipulations or chiropractic adjustments, or spinal adjustments. This will help take pressure off immediately and give you more long-term relief.

Are there any self-care treatments to try at home for L5-S1 herniation?

Experts also try to provide some short-term relief as well through Palliative care. This includes figure four stretching, lacrosse ball rolling and foam rolling. And these are more treatments to help alleviate pain while at home. You can take a look at our separate blog about the top five sciatica exercises. It would be a great beginning point to see if we can get some at-home care.

What is the treatment for herniated disc at C5-C6?

C5-C6 is close to the lowest part of the neck, and treatment for a herniated disk at C5-C6 is another big request we generally see. In case of nerve impingement; one can feel the pain down the inside of the arm, down all the way into the fingers. Now, that can present in many different ways. It can be a sharp pain, it can be tingling and it can be numbness. And that also needs to be addressed along with the herniated disc.

Again, the preferred treatment for the herniated disk at the C5-C6 is going to be chiropractic care. We want to immediately take pressure off of the disc, off of the nerve. Secondary would be using massage techniques down into the arm, using ART or Active Release Technique. It releases the muscles that follow that nerve all the way down in the arm. And finally, laser therapy can help immediately reduce inflammation at the nerve level. This therapy also gives you instantaneous relief.

What is a treatment for a bulging disk? 

Herniated disc and bulging disc are very synonymous. So the treatment would be very similar for a bulging disc. Primarily it is chiropractic care, and possibly acupuncture and laser therapy as well. If there’s any sort of nerve impingement with that bulging disc.

We at Truspine Clinic in San Francisco offer Chiropractic and Acupuncture therapies. We also offer Shockwave and Laser Therapies as per the requirement.

Have you or anyone you know suffered from a herniated disc? We would like to know more about your experience. You can book your appointment with our San Francisco chiropractor or try our free 15-minute phone consultation.