The last blog explained a little about the structure of the disc. This one will focus more on injury to the disc. Identifying injury to the disc is best done with a thorough examination and confirmed using MRI since discs cannot be seen on an x-ray. Though discs can be injured from a single traumatic event, often times it is injured over years of improper lifting or simply not taking care of your back. Second to degeneration, a disc herniation is the next most common disc problem. Though degeneration often leads to herniation, this problem may also be caused by a single event such as a sports injury or a car accident. There are varying degrees of disc herniation ranging from a slight bulge with little to no pain to a complete herniation of the nucleus pulposus into the spinal canal putting pressure on surrounding nerves and other tissues. Sometimes, pain in the leg or arm (radicular pain) may be worse than the pain in the back or neck. Many people fear the worst when they start experiencing radicular pain or other symptoms such as tingling, numbness, or even weakness. The good news is that recent studies have shown that many times it is not the disc that is physically putting pressure on the nerves, but the inflammation that occurs in response to the disc bulge/herniation. In that case, once inflammation has decreased, the radicular pain begins to subside. A trial of conservative care is recommended most of the time before surgery is even considered. Chiropractic has been shown to help with both decreasing the pain and increasing the functional abilities of the effected area. Certain exercises may also be beneficial in reaching those goals. After a trial of non-invasive treatment, the next step would be an epidural steroid injection. If there is no improvement after this series of care, then a referral may be necessary to discuss further options. Disc injuries sound scary, but they don’t have to be a lifelong debilitating problem. Getting a proper diagnosis and proper care is the key to minimizing both the short term and long term effects.
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