Slipped discs are one of the most common conditions that lead people to seek the help of a chiropractor. In fact, according to statistics, “slipped discs” affect between five and 20 out of every 1,000 adults, and mostly impact those between the ages of 30 to 50 years old.

But what is a slipped disc, really? The term “slipped” disc is actually a misnomer for what’s really happening to your vertebrae when you have this condition.

In this article, we’ll discuss the anatomy of your spine and what happens when one of your vertebrae “slips” so you can better understand what a slipped disc really is, and know when to seek the help of a chiropractor for relief.

Your Spine and Slipped Discs:

Your spine contains 23 discs, six in the neck, 12 in the middle of the back, and five in the lower back. These discs sit in the between the vertebrae in your spine and have jellylike centers (the nucleus) and rubbery exteriors (the annulus).

These discs are essential to the function of your spine as they help keep it flexible while providing strength, provide shock absorption, and prevent your vertebrae from grinding together.

Sometimes, for a variety of reasons, a crack forms in the tough outer layer of the disc and allows some of the softer nucleus to protrude out of the disc. This condition is commonly known as a “slipped” disc, despite the fact that the disc hasn’t really “slipped” at all. Instead, only the small area where the crack in the exterior is located is affected.

A more appropriate term for this condition is “herniated” disc, meaning the nucleus has herniated through the rubbery exterior of the disc.

Typical Causes of a Herniated Disc:

For most people, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment when a disc became herniated. Often, a herniated disc is caused by lifting a heavy object with your back instead of your knees or twisting while lifting. However, the most common reason for a herniated disc is regular wear and tear on your spine as you age.

Over time, your discs become less flexible and are more vulnerable to tearing as a result of the most minor strain or twist. This is a normal part of aging known as disc degeneration.

Aside from age, here are some other common risk factors for herniated discs:

  • Your job: Physically demanding jobs that require a lot of lifting or repetitive movements can impact spinal discs.
  • Your weight: Your spine can degenerate faster the more you weigh.
  • Whether you smoke: Smoking causes a decrease in oxygen which causes the disc to break down quicker.
  • Your genes: Some people may be predisposed to having disc issues depending on their genetics and family history.

Herniated Disc Symptoms

Herniated discs are most commonly found in the lower back, although they can occur anywhere. A herniated disc can put extra pressure on nearby nerves and muscles causing pain and inflammation.

Here are some of the common symptoms you may experience with a herniated disc:

  • Tingling or aching in the affected region
  • Pain and numbness
  • Pain that extends down the arm or leg
  • Pain that worsens at night or with certain movements
  • Pain after standing, sitting or walking short distances
  • Unexplained muscle weakness

It is also possible to have a herniated disc and not experience any symptoms at all. You might not know you have a herniated disc unless it shows up on a spinal image.

How to Care for a Herniated Disc

Back pain is not fun and can limit your ability to perform everyday activities. So if you’re experiencing any of the herniated disc symptoms listed above, know that it is possible to improve your symptoms and get some relief. The good news is that most herniated discs can be treated pretty easily. At home, you can take over-the-counter pain relievers to help lessen the inflammation and avoid uncomfortable positions while you heal. However, your best option is to visit a chiropractor.

A chiropractor can help you to identify the cause of your discomfort, and provide options to relieve the pain of a herniated disc. After taking a thorough history and evaluation, your chiropractor will create a treatment plan that could include manual therapy, spinal manipulations, and therapeutic exercises such as stretching exercises.

Schedule an Appointment Today

If you’re experiencing symptoms of a herniated disc, schedule your appointment with Cianci Chiropractic today.