The vertebral bones (the vertebrae) that make up the spine are joined together by cartilage discs. Each disc is composed of a circle of connective tissue and a central core similar to gelatin.
The role of intervertebral discs is to cushion the impacts that occur constantly on the spine (when walking, when sitting, when standing, when going down stairs …) and is crucial for our optimal functioning.
An herniated disc occurs when the disc has shifted from its axis or is running out of its usual volume.
A protrusion is a disc degeneration, due to attrition and lack of hydration, without becoming a hernia.
So, the order would be: healthy disk, protrusion, and herniated disc.
There are many ways to describe the pathology depending on where we go or how they explain it to us; thus we speak of herniated disc, pinched nerve, nervous impingement, protruding disc, disc protuberance … All these terms are used randomly by medical professionals to describe it.
Unfortunately, there is no agreement in the field of health regarding the precise definition of any of these terms, and patients often feel frustrated and confused when they hear their diagnosis and each professional uses different terms to describe it. But whatever the term they use, what happens is what we’ve just explained.
The point is that this abnormal movement of the vertebral disc, this displacement of its axis, we can have it and not know about it. The symptom may sometimes be a pression on the spinal cord or on the nerve roots, leading to intense pain that often radiates downward; leg, arm or other part of the body (depending on the area of the affected spine), but often, does not present symptoms.
More than 20% of the population has herniated discs and they are not even aware of it because they do not press – still – the spinal cord or the nerves, and therefore do not cause discomfort.
So, what happens when there is a protrusion or herniated disc?
Think of the intervertebral disc as in a stuffed donut: you may crush it although the contents do not come out, but accumulate all the gelatin on one side producing a lateral bulge (protrusion) or you may squeeze it so much that the filling of the donut comes out (discal hernia).
¿What’s the cause of a protrusion or an herniated disc?
The truth is that it can happen for many reasons.
A physical trauma such as a traffic or bike accident, falls, injuries, etc. Most of them occur at a time when we are not aware and it will be accentuated while we age and with the constant struggle our body does against gravity.
The general attrition of the circle of connective tissue causes it to weaken and trigger the soft, gelatinous core to swell.
It can also be, that excessive physical work over a prolonged period of time, increases the likelihood of disc slipping.
Are there always symptoms?
No, as we explained in the consultation, health and absence of symptoms are not linked.
Let’s see; If a person climbs Mount Everest, he probably would feel cold, his legs would be tired. Or he would have a headache due to the change in pressure, etc. On the other hand, a person who climbs two floors in his building would not feel any symptom. But who will be more healthier? The person who climbs Everest or the person who only climbs two floors?
The symptoms of discal hernias or protrusions may be the following ones:
- Back discomfort.
- Pain that extends over the buttocks, the back of the thigh and inside the calf.
- It can be in one leg (more common) or in both legs.
- Numbness, tingling, or weakness in the legs or the feet.
- In severe cases, inability to find comfort even lying down.
- Sore neck or a sudden twisting sensation, which can not be straightened without a moment of intense pain.
- Changes in the bowels or the bladder and / or numbness in the groin.
¿What kind of treatments are there?
The standard treatments that are given here, in Spain, when you have an discal hernia or protrusion are very diverse and invasive: to wait for it to get worse, anti-inflammatory drugs, injections, infiltrations or surgery.
In Centre Quiropràctic l’Olivera arrive people who are about to undergo surgery that in the end they won’t need to receive.
Chiropractic care should be the first option. Chiropractic care is not invasive, it does not include pills, injections, or surgery. It is a preventive care, and above all it looks for the cause, the root of the problem, and makes the body work by itself from inside out. Chiropractic does not invade the body with external elements to cover the problem.
In a study of the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 27 patients who had documented and symptomatic herniated discs were evaluated before and after receiving chiropractic care.
- 80% of patients reported that their pain had decreased to less than two on a pain scale from 0 to 10, with 10 being the highest pain level possible.
- 63% of their magnetic resonance images confirmed a reduction in the size or complete resorption of the herniated disc material.
- In addition, 78% of patients in the study who were previously on sick leave due to pain were able to return to work.
While the specific condition of each person may be, of course, different, this study confirms that chiropractic care is safe for the “treatment” of disc injuries.
In any case, preventing injuries to the intervertebral discs is always better than having to look for quick solutions later.
Come and take care of your nervous system so that it does not become a crapped donut!