Traditionally, people have sought care from an osteopath for slipped disks. This very painful problem has often been treated by the medical community with various therapies and medicines, or even surgeries. In order to prevent side-effects and surgical complications, many people have sought chiropractic care as an alternative, non-invasive treatment for slipped disks.
What is a Slipped Disk?
Our spine has disks (or discs), which are pads between our vertebrae that absorb shocks. They don’t really “slip”, but they rupture, move, or split, which can lead the disk cartilage (and tissues nearby) to “herniate (fail), and the inner gel of the disk can leak out. When this happens, nerves and the spinal cord can be put under pressure, and this leads to weakness, pain, or numbing. “Slipped disk is, therefore, a misnomer” and when the disk that is damaged protrudes against nerve tissues, it is really called a “herniated disk, ruptured disk, or prolapsed disk”.1 General “wear and tear” from sitting and squatting can cause herniation. Lifting can cause trauma, because the pressure on the disk increases greatly. The stomach side of the disk is affected the most, as it is “compressed when sitting or bending forward”. Genetics may also be involved in who is most at risk for lumbar disk herniation. Other types of herniation include cervical (neck) and, rarely, thoracic.2
Most herniation heals on its own. Typically, doctors will prescribe anti-inflammatory agents or even cortisone injections. Doctors may even recommend physical therapy, weight control, and spinal manipulation. If the herniation doesn’t heal on its own, surgery may be required. Surgery is the “last resort”. Surgical options include dissolving the disk, relieving nerve compression, relieving spinal stenosis, spinal fusion, and disk replacement.3
Chiropractic Care for Slipped Disks
“Spinal manipulation is perfectly safe for a herniated or bulging disk,” according to some recent studies. Chiropractors can provide relief without the side-effects of medications or the risks of surgeries.4 Chiropractors consider the entire spine when evaluating a patient. The “spine functions as a whole”, so while there may seem to be pain in one part of the spine, other parts may also be involved. Therapy will typically include spinal manipulations as well as “therapeutic exercises”.5 Chiropractors also advocate prevention. Patients should exercise regularly, eat a well-balanced diet with all of the proper nutrients, and avoid smoking. In terms of behavioral choices, patients should make sure to use proper posture, and practice proper and safe lifting and twisting techniques. During chiropractic care, patients may also receive physical therapy and home exercises.6