How Can a Chiropractor Help With My Bulged Disc?

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Bulged Disc vs. Herniated Disc

Some people think bulged discs and herniated discs are the same thing. However, this is not true. A herniated disc is cracked along the annulus, which is the outside part of the disk. This type of crack occurs in a small section of a disc, and causes a rupture in which the soft material inside the nucleus pulposus pours out from the crack.

With a bulging disc, there isn’t a rupture and as the name states a section of the disc bulges outward. It affects the spaces between the vertebrae. However, bulging discs affect an area that is much bigger than the size of the affected area with a herniated disc.

Bulging discs happen more frequently than herniated discs, but the latter usually hurts more. In some cases a bulging disc isn’t painful at all in some patients.

Reasons for disc problems

Some doctors consider bulging discs to merely be what happens when you get older. However, this can occur due to both aging as well as via the intervertebral disc degenerating. Still, bulging discs don’t necessarily mean you have a serious problem with the spine.

If the bulging disc protrudes far enough to cause the spinal canal to narrow, then it is considered more serious. If you add bone spurs onto the facet joints located behind a bulging disc, this puts a person at risk of their spinal canal getting narrower in that location. It is called segmental spinal stenosis. You can see a video of a bulging disc here .

People like athletes or those with very physical occupations are more likely to suffer an Injury to their intervertebral disc. This can cause the disc to get weakened, and thus make those folks more likely to develop problems. Another thing that can cause discs to degenerate and become weak is smoking.

Indications of disc problems

Both young and old can commonly develop a bulged disc, but it doesn’t mean you should worry if you have one. Symptoms start to occur once the bulging disc progresses to pressing on a nerve. This causes symptoms in the area of the body where the nerves are compromised.

Numbness and weakness in the muscles are two indications you could have a bulged disc. Pain from a bulging disc could seem to be from somewhere other than your back, depending on what nerves the bulging disc is pushing onto. For instance, you could feel it in your stomach, kidneys or heart.

At times, a bulged disc can push against the spinal cord. If this occurs, the following signs may be seen:

Bulging discs on the thoracic spine:

Weakness in the muscles, tingling sensation in the legs, or numbness.

Overactive leg reflexes which may develop into spasticity

Bladder or bowel Problems

Being paralyzed below the waist

Bulged discs in the cervical spine:

Hurts to move the neck

Pain that feels like it is deep within the shoulder blade or surrounding area

Pain that radiates down the forearm, upper arm, and could include the fingers

Discomfort caused by bulged discs could begin slow, then worsen as time goes on or when doing some types of motions. Often, these symptoms may improve over several weeks or in a few months.

Diagnosing a bulged disc

Identifying someone has a bulging disc starts with a doctor’s examination that includes getting the patient’s total medical history. The physician could ask the patient if they are having any bowel or bladder control issues. If so, that could mean they have a bulging disc on their thoracic spine pressing onto the spinal cord. A physician may also order tests such as an MRI, CT scan or x-rays.

X-rays

A physician might order spine xrays if a bulging dis is suspected. X-rays won’t actually reveal the bulging disc; however, it lets the physician know if there is excess damage to a patient’s spine.

MRIs

Usually, a bulging disc is diagnosed via an MRI. MRIs are not painful and are quite accurate. An MRI is normally what is ordered after a doctor reviews the x-rays if they think the patient has a bulging disc.

Treatment by a Chiropractor for a herniated disc

Chiropractors often work with patients to relieve pain in the back, as well as symptoms of herniated discs. Chiropractors examine the patient, get their medical history, and do neurological and orthopedic testing.

A chiropractor is looking for certain signs, and will use the tests and exam to answer the following questions:

Does the patient have normal reflexes?  In doing this they tap your knee using a special hammer and the patient’s leg should jump up. This shows whether the patient’s nerves are sending the proper signals.

Does the patient have any muscle wasting or loss of strength?

Does the patient have any sensation loss happening along a nerve path?

Chiropractors also check a person’s posture. Sometimes they order MRIs or x-rays to get more in-depth answers.

Chiropractors assess your whole spine. For instance, even if a person has only pain in the lower part of the back, they will take a look at their neck. They need to know how well the spine functions overall. Plus, things that occur in one part of the spine, may affect other areas of the body or the spine.

Once the chiropractor reviews this data, they can decide if the person has a damaged intervertebral disc. The kind of disc damage determines the type of chiropractic treatment that will be used.

A few people can’t benefit from chiropractic type care. For instance, if someone has a loss of control in the bladder or bowels (which is called cauda equina syndrome) along with a damaged intervertebral disc, this must be treated by a medical doctor, and a chiropractor can’t treat it.

Furthermore, if a chiropractor discovers extreme weakness, loss of sensation, reflex problems, or additional neurological issues, they will refer a patient to a spinal surgeon.

Nevertheless, the majority it damage to intervertebral discs are due to herniated discs. A chiropractor can offer several types of treatment for this injury to relieve pain or other issues.

When treating herniated discs, a chiropractor develops a course of treatment which might involve manipulation of the spine, which is called adjustments, along with other types of chiropractic care. Each plan is individualized for the patient and could involve things like therapeutic exercise or a type of manual therapy.

The particulars of a person’s treatment regime depend on their pain levels, how active they are, their general health, as well as any other treatment thought best by the chiropractor. If you have any questions on what your chiropractor proposes to do, be sure to bring them up at your appointment. It’s vital to understand the treatment plans and the ways it may get rid of your discomfort. Chiropractic treatments are safe and efficient for the majority of persons.

Conclusion

A chiropractor puts together a plan of treatment for bulged discs. If these treatments don’t alleviate the symptoms, they may suggest the patient see a spinal surgeon or a pain management doctor.

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