Spinal disc problems are among the widely misunderstood conditions for a number of reasons. For one, the plethora of medical terms used to describe disc-related pain such as degenerated disc, pinched nerve, bulging disc, herniated disc can be confusing and complex for most people to grasp.
This article was designed by OHP Kelowna Chiropractors to give you the key information you need to know about spinal disc problems.
What Is A Spinal Disc?
Spinal discs are composed of ligament-like outer rings. The discs are flat on the top and bottom, and are attached securely to the vertebrae above and below them. The discs are somewhat pliant, providing shock absorption for the spine. It also provides protection to the spinal cord and ensures flexibility of the spine.
Due to a number of stresses sustained by the spine and changes that comes with aging, the spinal disc is prone to injury. This in turn can lead to lower back pain, leg pain and other symptoms such as numbness and weakness.
Nerve Root Pain Vs. Disc Pain
While there are dozens of terms used to describe disc problems, there really are only two main categories of disc problems: Degenerative Disc Disease and Herniated Disc.
Degenerative Disc Disease
If the disc itself is the source of the pain, the patient will experience either referred or axial pain. Conditions related to degenerative diseases often occur as part of the aging process, in which the discs of the spine start to dry out, thereby losing a certain degree of shock absorption and flexibility.
This process involves the shrinking of the inner portion of the disc, resulting to decreased cushioning between the vertebrae in the spine. The outer part of the disc can also suffer small tears, which can result to pain.
If the spinal disc problem causes nerve root pain or the pain travels along one of the nerves that exits the spine, this is referred to as radicular pain. This can occur if the inner material of the disc, the soft nucleus, leaks out of the disc or herniates and touches the nerve root. It is important to note that the material within the disc is highly inflammatory and any contact with the nerve can trigger pain.
Aside from pain, other symptoms associated with herniated disc problems include tingling sensation, numbness or weakness and pain typically travels along the path of the nerve.
If the disc herniated in the lower part of the spine, it causes pain along the sciatic nerve, which runs through the back of the leg. If the disc herniated in the cervical spine, the pain typically radiates through the arm.
What Do You Need To Know?
Regardless of what a disc problem is called – a bulging disc, a slipped disc, degenerated disc, etc. – it is important that the patient understands whether the pain is caused along the nerve root or within the disc itself.
It is also equally important to know that a disc disorder does not necessarily equate to experiencing pain. While this may seem contradictory to common sense, a diseased or damaged disc, does not always mean the patient will experience any symptom, including pain.
In addition, the severity of the disc problem does not correlate to the pain level or symptoms experienced.
How Can OHP Kelowna Chiropractors Help?
While a lot of people consider spine surgery and injections the ultimate remedies, most often they are not necessary in the management of spinal disc problems. Chiropractic care is a non-surgical treatment option for a number of disc problems, an approach offered by our team of OHP Kelowna chiropractors.
A chiropractic spinal manipulation has been demonstrated to be a gentle, safe and effective tool in the management of disc problems, especially when combined with therapeutic exercises.
During the initial appointment, your chiropractor will go through the patient’s medical history, perform physical exam as well as neurological and orthopaedic tests. The posture will also be assessed and in some cases, X-ray or MRI may be requested to help with the diagnostic process.
OHP Kelowna chiropractic clinic has a team of highly proficient and extensively trained doctors of chiropractic ready to provide pain relief and treatment for a number of disc-related conditions.