A herniated disc and physical therapy or chiropractic care often go hand-in-hand.
Herniated Disc Symptoms
A herniated disc (herniated disk) is a situation where the rubbery discs between the vertebrae, which are “a little like a jelly donut” can rupture or slip. In fact, a herniated disc is also known as a slipped disc or ruptured disc. When this occurs, it can lead to pain, weakness, or numbness due to the nerve irritation. Some people may feel these symptoms in the leg or arm, while others might have no symptoms at all. The most frequent signs of a herniated disc are numbness, tingling, weakness, and leg and arm pain. It is important to seek professional help if the pain travels down the leg or arm or if there is tingling, weakness, or numbness. The usual cause of disc herniation is disc degeneration or “aging-related wear and tear”. When the discs lose water over time, they are less flexible and might tear “with even a minor strain or twist”. It is rare that trauma such as a blow or fall causes disc hernation.1 When damage to the discs causes nerve irritation, patients may experience the pain in the leg, known as sciatica or lumbar radiculopathy. Sciatica could occur after a patient has lower back pain, and numbness and tingling might result. Coughing, sneezing, or waist movements may lead to more pain, but in severe situations, bowel and bladder functioning are affected.2 A cervical herniated disc is a bulging disc in the neck. This disorder could trigger arm, hand, chest, or neck pain, tingling, or numbness. Even walking difficulties and leg weakness may result.3
Herniated Disc and Physical Therapy Treatment
Patients may seek chiropractic care or physical therapy for their herniated disc. Conservative herniated disc treatment could prevent the need for medications or surgery. The people most at risk for herniated discs are not only those between the ages of 30 and 50, but the obese, the inactive, and those with repetitive and physical jobs. A practitioner will ask the patient specifically about symptoms, perform muscle strength tests, examine posture and range-of-motion, and use manual therapy to check for mobility of muscles and joints.4 Patients will be advised on various exercises that can be performed, such as ones for sciatica that include “extension exercises or press-ups”.5 While physical therapy doesn’t heal the disc herniation, it can alleviate symptoms. In fact there are studies that have shown “that if an exercise or posture is successful in easing symptoms, the likelihood of getting better is greater”.6 Another non-surgical treatment option is spinal decompression, which is motorized traction that is meant to decrease pressure on the discs. Other alternatives to surgery are NSAID medications, steroid injections, bracing, and acupuncture, as well as chiropractic care.7
Learn more about chiropractic care for slipped discs.