Jan
09

What is a herniated disc?

One of the most often misunderstood conditions and a frequently asked health question is “what is a herniated disc?”

It’s a common condition which commonly occurs in the lower part of the spine and is often referred to as a ‘’slipped disc’’.

Between each vertebra in the spine lies a spinal disc. These spinal discs have three main functions. They:

  • act as ligaments to help hold the vertebrae together.
  • provide slight mobility in the spine.
  • act as shock absorbers for the daily stresses the body is put under.

Each spinal disc has a semi-liquid or jellylike centre surrounded by cartilage. This cartilage is arranged in rings, similar to the inside of a tree when you cut it in half.

When a disc is herniated, the “jelly” in the centre breaks through the cartilage rings and forms a “bulge” or “herniation” on the outside of the disc. This herniation can cause major health issues by putting pressure on the adjacent spinal nerves, causing pain and possible dysfunction of the organs that the nerves control.

Disc herniation is usually caused by an injury of some sort such as a car accident, overuse as a result of repetitive movement over time, or even just by lifting incorrectly. There are several risk factors that can increase the likelihood of someone having a herniated spinal disc.

These include smoking, lack of exercise, sitting for long periods, and being overweight.

Spinal discs can also lose some of their water as a person ages, which makes the discs less supple and more prone to cracking.

Symptoms related to a herniated disc vary. Some people can experience slight localised pain, while others experience severe shooting pain into the
arms or legs. Organ dysfunction can also occur in some individuals, as a
result of pressure on the nerves that control the organ.

Appropriate treatment of a disc herniation will only be recommended after an examination. Your chiropractor is trained and qualified to provide professional health advice on suitable treatment options.

Although damage to the disc may heal, often the disc does not return to its full original strength. As a result, many people experience recurring back injuries even while lifting a light object or simply bending over. It can
often end in a more serious herniation as a result.

Many things can be done to avoid disc herniation or prevent a recurrence of an existing herniation. Core strength and flexibility are at the top of this list. Yoga, strengthening exercises, swimming, and walking all help
maintain good core strength and flexibility.

It’s also very important to maintain correct posture when carrying out daily tasks. An active lifestyle and a healthy diet can directly impact the health of your spine and decrease the chance of a disc herniation occurring. Seek advice from your chiropractor about concerns or symptoms
you have that might be related.

This article first appeared in the January/ February 2020 issue of the Your Chiropractor magazine. Pickup your at your next Chiropractic or Massage appointment at our Melbourne CBD Chiropractic practice.

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