Lumbar disc herniations are a common injury among 20-40 year old's and are one of the primary causes of low back pain in this age population. To understand why the lumbar discs are susceptible to injury in this age group we must first understand a little about the anatomy of the disc!
In the picture above you can clearly see what a disc looks like. It has two main parts to it, the outer ring are cartilage tissue known as the annulus fibrosus, and the inner oval of jelly like substance known as the nucleus pulposus. These two layers of a disc are what make up its function and strong structure to allow the disc to act as a shock absorber to the spine. The disc has two main phases to its life span. For our first approximately 50 years of life the inner layer of the disc is hydrated and that jelly like substance allows for great capacity to compress and stretch which helps take pressure off the spine. At around 50 years of age however, our discs dehydrate and they start to turn rigid, this can be seen on x-rays as decreased disc height and degeneration or arthritis. But this also explains why people who are younger have higher rates of disc injuries, because the jelly like nucleus pulposus is more capable of herniating outwards if the outer cartilage layer tears or breaks.
This picture highlights how a herniated disc occurs. The outer layer of cartilaginous tissue tears or breaks allowing the jelly like inner layer to bulge outwards which is what we call a herniated disc. Typically discs herniate backwards and to the side slightly because this is the weakest point of the spine as there are no ligaments here due to the fact that this is also where the spinal nerves exit the spinal column as they travel along their path. This is how a herniated disc can thus send radiating pain, tingling, or numbness down an arm or leg depending on what level the disc is herniated at.
So how do you manage a herniated disc if you have this problem? Well here at Empower Chiropractic, we manage these by getting you moving! Discs love movement. It helps to nourish the disc as the compression and stretching forces help to move fluid and nutrients into the disc space and metabolic waste out of the disc at the same time. People who have disc pain typically say their pain is worst at night and in the mornings when they first wake up. This is because the disc will swell overnight as you lie down and gravity is not weighing down on your spine. When you wake up in the morning, the disc is swollen and pushing further out into your nerves. Once people get up and start walking around the pain tends to decrease some. The next step you should take is to consult a chiropractor for proper treatment. At Empower Chiropractic we typically employ a variety of treatments to properly manage all the symptoms and correct the cause of the disc issue through adjustments, anti-inflammatory modalities like electrical stimulation, and spinal decompression to help reduce pressure on the nervous system. Dr. Dalton Brunner will also educate you on healthy tips to manage your disc pain such as taking short walks to help get movement into the disc space, not sitting for too long, icing the low back when in acute pain, and applying heat when in the healing phases, and possibly sleeping in a recliner instead of in a bed until symptoms resolve to help alleviate disc swelling overnight.
Chiropractic is fantastic at managing disc pain because our specific adjustments help restore the motion and function to the spine which in turn can help correct the position of the disc, reducing pressure on the nervous system, and allowing the body to heal naturally.