A spinal disc is a little like a jelly donut, with a softer center encased within a tougher exterior. Sometimes called a slipped disk or a ruptured disk, a herniated disc occurs when some of the softer “jelly” pushes out through a crack in the tougher exterior.
Many patients with back pain, leg pain, or weakness of the lower extremity muscles are diagnosed with a disc injury. When a disc injury occurs, the cushion that sits between the spinal vertebra is pushed outside its normal position. A herniated disc would not be a problem if it weren’t for the spinal nerves that are very close to the edge of these spinal discs.
A herniated disc can irritate nearby nerves and result in pain, numbness or weakness in an arm or leg. Healthy discs give you flexibility, allowing normal turning and bending. This movement produces a pumping action that supplies proper disc nutrition and waste removal.
Trauma produces the most common form of disc injury.
Spinal misalignments can cause disc tissue to adapt into a wedge-like shape. This is the earliest stage of disc damage. While this position can encroach upon adjacent nerve tissue, pain or other obvious symptoms may not be present. Even before symptoms appear, chiropractic care can be helpful.
Like a blister, disc tissue can bulge. As the soft nucleus of the disc is compressed, it pushes outward where the disc wall is weakest. This distortion can produce obvious symptoms (sciatica) as it affects nearby nerves. Muscles tighten to protect and splint the joint. Chiropractic care has been known to help.
The most extreme form of disc damage is when the disc ruptures, leaking its contents into surrounding tissues. With its cushioning and separating functions gone, movement is painful and surgical intervention is often involved.
Uncorrected, long-standing vertebral subluxations can make discs susceptible to damage. “I didn’t do a thing” or “I just bent over to tie my shoes” are comments we often hear.
The purpose of chiropractic care is to locate and correct areas of the spine that interfere with the proper nervous system control of your body. Because the intervertebral discs are so close to the spinal cord and nerve roots, disc involvement is quite common in chiropractic cases. Chiropractic adjustments help restore proper motion and position of malfunctioning spinal bones, reducing nervous system involvement. If caught before permanent damage occurs, disc tissue often returns to a more normal size and shape.
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Herniated Disc, Mayo Clinic Staff.