The box you picked up off of the floor was a little too heavy and you didn't use your legs as you're supposed to. You suddenly feel a sharp pain in your lower back followed by numbness and tingling down one of your legs. These are typical symptoms of a herniated disc. Your local chiropractor specializes in injuries of the spine. Here is what just happened to your back and how the chiropractor will help get rid of your pain.
You Have Injured a Disc
Also called a ruptured disk or slipped disk, a herniated disc occurs when stress and uneven pressure are applied on one of the cartilage discs between the vertebrae in your spine. The pressure causes the disc to crack allowing the gel-like fluid within to escape. This viscous fluid presses against nerves that come out of your spine, causing pain and swelling. The nerves being irritated are usually on one side of the spine or the other, which is why you have pain going down only one leg.
Treatment of a Herniated Disc
The chiropractor will exam you to determine the extent of the injury. An X-ray or MRI will show which disc has ruptured and the side of the spine most affected. The doctor will do a neurological examination to see the level of involvement of the nerves. With this information they can create a treatment plan that best fits your injury.
The initial focus of treatment is the reduction of pain and swelling in the area of the herniated disc. Your doctor will recommend an over the counter pain and anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen, for temporary pain relief. Massage with hot and cold packs may also be used to reduce the inflammation.
Your chiropractor will recommend one or more of the following treatment techniques:
- Flexion-Distraction - This technique uses a special table to slightly stretch your spine at the location of the herniation. The goal is to get the gel-like fluid in the disc to return to the central core, removing the pressure from your nerves. This reduces the inflammation and pain you feel down your leg.
- Manipulation Under Anesthesia (MUA) - This technique is done in a hospital or clinic with the assistance of a licensed anesthesiologist. You are sedated for a short period of time, but not very deeply (twilight sleep). During this time, your spine is more relaxed so the chiropractor can stretch the spine and muscles in the area of the injury.
- Pelvic Blocking - While on a massage table, cushions are placed under your pelvis while you do back exercises. This position causes the disc to move away from the nerves reducing the pain and inflammation. The exercises strengthen the back muscles so they can support your spine more effectively.
If you have such a back injury, don't hesitate to see the chiropractor. Initial swelling in your back may mask the pain. In a few days, you could find yourself not wanting to get out of bed and move at all.