If you are experiencing spinal pain, stiffness, or soreness, the sensible thing to do would be to make an appointment to see a doctor. However, you may not realize that one of the most common degenerative conditions of the spine, a slipped spinal disc, may not result in symptoms until some damage has occurred.
If you are experiencing pain, the symptoms can often be diffuse and nonspecific, including leg, buttock, or foot pain; shoulder, neck, or arm pain; numbness, tingling, or weakness in the arms or legs, all depending on the part of the spine where the disc has slipped. Regardless of whether or not you are actually experiencing any pain, an MRI will be needed to confirm any disc abnormality. What are spinal discs, what causes slipped discs, and how can they be treated with Dr. Nathen Horst through chiropractic care?
What Are Spinal Discs?
You can think of spinal discs as shock absorbers for the vertebrae. If you consider what happens to your vertebrae when you jump up and down, you should begin to get an idea of how they work to protect your spine. Spinal discs are spongy pads, with a tough fibrous exterior, between each of your spinal vertebrae except for the top two that lead out of your skull. These discs start out as sacs in childhood, and eventually have the consistency of a hard rubber hockey puck by the time you hit middle age. This is why seniors are prone to problems with their spinal discs.
What Causes a Slipped Disc?
The truth is that the term slipped disc is somewhat of a misnomer, but has come into popular use. The correct term is herniated disc. This occurs when part of the softer center part of the disc (called the nucleus) pushes or bulges through cracks in the hardened exterior of the disc (called the annulus) and can irritate nerves coming in or out of the spinal column at that location. There are actually several stages of spinal disc degeneration. A disc protrusion occurs if the nucleus bulges out of its normal shape, while a prolapsed disc bulges out so far that the nucleus is pushed out past the annulus. An extrusion occurs if the nucleus actually breaks through the annulus.
Depending on which part of the spine the disc herniation occurs, this nerve irritation can be the cause for diffuse symptoms in the shoulder, arms, legs, or feet. There can be a number of factors that may cause a herniated disc, including posture, weight, diet, and lack of exercise. However, one of the most common causes is simply due to age.
Treatment for a Slipped Disc
Dr. Horst will use a number of different techniques to treat a slipped disc, but the main goal is to reverse the bulging and shore up the annulus against further disc slippage. Stretching the individual vertebrae can play a key role in this, which is why he recommends the use of flexion-distraction, which uses a special kind of table to help gently stretch the height of the discs and ease the nucleus into its proper shape and position in the center of the disc. Dr. Horst may also add home stretching exercises to strengthen the entire spinal column and surrounding ligaments and muscles.
A slipped disc may be frustrating because your symptoms may not appear to be at all related to your spine, or you may not have any pain at all. An MRI can show whether or not you indeed do have a slipped disk. Dr. Horst can then tailor a special treatment plan to help ease your pain and get you on the road to recovery.