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Disc Injury Treatment: A Springfield, IL Chiropractor’s Perspective

At the Springfield Wellness Center, our chiropractors treat disc injuries almost every day. Lower back pain is perhaps the most common reason that people come into our office looking for help. After all, lower back pain is the #1 cause of disability in America, affecting more than 80% of people at some point during their lives. There are many different causes of lower back pain such as a muscle strain or vertebral subluxation, but one of the causes of more severe lower back pain is an injury to an intervertebral disc.

Before discussing what causes disc injuries and what kinds of treatments are effective, it is important to understand exactly what is happening in the disc when it becomes injured. Intervertebral discs are made of fibrocartilage and rest between each vertebra in the spine. They act as shock absorbers in the spine, absorbing the stress and pressure that everyday life places on our spine. The disc itself is made of a jelly-like center called the nucleus that is surrounded by several rings of cartilage. The nucleus moves with our movements to provide continued balance and force absorption to keep our spine healthy and strong.

Due to prolonged causes such as repetitive movements, or more immediate causes such as trauma, the rings of cartilage can be damaged. When this happens, the nucleus of the disc takes the path of least resistance and pushes into the damaged space. This is typically not symptomatic, so the individual would not know at this time that a disc injury was occurring. As this condition progresses and damage is sustained to the last ring of cartilage, the disc material pushes out from the disc into the spinal canal where the spinal cord and nerves are. This can be an extremely painful occurrence in the lower back and can even cause pain to travel down the legs as well (sciatica). At this time, immediate intervention is required in order to have the best prognosis going forward.

Traditional medicine usually treats disc herniation using opioid medications for pain or steroid injections, but some discs require surgical intervention if less invasive treatments are unsuccessful. However, there are more conservative treatments available that are effective at treating the root cause of the problem, thus helping the symptoms to dissipate. The chiropractors at The Springfield Wellness Center treat people with disc injuries on a daily basis, and they are ready to help you, too.

How We Treat Disc Injuries in Springfield, IL

Comprehensive Consultation and Exam

Yes, it is very important to begin treatment as quickly as possible for a disc injury, but before that happens a detailed consultation and exam must be performed. Our chiropractors must understand your condition and what the situation is in order to determine if proceeding with treatment is the appropriate action to take. Our doctors want to understand your history and how this injury came to be. This information is helpful in figuring out what kind of recommendations for care need to be made.

After the consultation, the doctor will perform an examination to further determine the cause of your condition. They will perform orthopedic, neurologic, and functional movement tests to assess the problem and rule in/rule out other possible causes. The consultation and exam are designed to give our providers the clearest picture of what is happening and what needs to be done. The sooner this process starts, the sooner they can get you on the path to healing and back to the life you want to live.

Specific Chiropractic Care | Springfield, IL

Chiropractic care is one of the best ways to naturally treat disc injuries because it goes straight to the source of the problem and seeks to correct it. With disc injuries, subluxation of the adjacent vertebrae is also present. The chiropractic adjustment not only corrects the subluxation but also promotes movement of the disc material back to its correct position between the 2 vertebrae.

Bear in mind that these subluxations were likely present long before the disc injury occurred, so they are not used to being in correct alignment. Over time, the body gets used to the correct alignment, and this is what helps to prevent pain from coming back in the future. Chiropractic adjustments are both quick and gentle. It does not take a lot of force to adjust somebody’s spine, especially with the right technique. This is important because people with disc injuries are typically in a lot of pain.

Custom Therapeutic Exercise Plan

Muscle weakness or imbalance is a very common reason why discs are susceptible to injury over time. The muscles that surround and support the spine are supposed to keep the spine stable, and that includes the discs. When these muscles are weak, however, the instability in the spine makes it more likely that injury can occur to the discs. At the Springfield Wellness Center, we utilize exercise to help build a solid foundation for the spine in order to improve both mobility and stability, as well as protect the spine from future injury.

Our trainers work closely with our doctors and use their expertise to create a custom exercise plan for you to follow as part of your recovery. Not only will you perform exercises at our facility, but you will also be given exercises to work on outside the office. This helps to ensure you get the best results in a timely manner. It’s great to get rid of pain, but it’s even better when you can keep it from coming back. That is exactly what our exercise programs are made to do.

Spinal Decompression | Springfield, IL

When it comes to disc injuries one of the most crucial elements of our treatment process is spinal decompression. When the disc is herniated or bulged, there is a great amount of pressure being applied to that disc, which contributes to the pain you experience. Also, the nerves get pinched and choked when there is disc material taking up space in the spinal canal, which furthers the pain problem. Decompressing the spine helps to alleviate this pressure.

When your spine is decompressed, it creates negative pressure inside the disc. This negative pressure works to pull the disc material out of the spinal canal and back into its correct position between the 2 vertebrae. Decompression also increases joint spacing, which gives the nerves more room to breathe and function properly. When combined with chiropractic adjustments and exercise, spinal decompression is an extremely effective solution for lower back and sciatic pain related to disc injuries in the lumbar spine.

Deep Tissue Laser

It is no secret that disc injuries need time to heal. They are likely the result of a gradual process of injury that has occurred over weeks, months, or even years, so healing naturally will also take time. With that being said, there is technology available that can accelerate this healing process and help produce faster results. This treatment is called Deep Tissue Laser.

Deep Tissue Laser works through a process called photobiomodulation, meaning that light energy penetrates deep into the damaged tissue down to the cellular level. Here, it stimulates energy production in the cell which is put towards both reducing inflammation as well as speeding up the tissue healing. It is very quick, with treatment taking only about 3-5 minutes for each session. When used in conjunction with other treatments like spinal decompression and chiropractic, deep tissue laser can be a game-changer for people with stubborn disc injuries.

Common Causes of Disc Injury in Springfield, IL

Bulged Disc

Spinal discs wear and tear with age. Over time, discs will dehydrate and the outer layer of cartilage will stiffen. These changes can cause the outer layer of the disc to bulge out. Some protruding discs can be painless, but if the disc bulges out enough it can irritate nearby nerves leading to numbness, tingling, weakness, cramping, spasms, and shooting pain.

Age is the biggest risk factor for a bulged disc, making it more common in older people than in younger people. Improper lifting techniques, accumulated trauma from poor posture, obesity, genetics, or acute trauma can also lead to a bulged disc.

Herniated Disc

Bulged discs can worsen to the point of rupture and cause serious symptoms. A disc herniation is more likely to cause pain than a bulged disc. A disc herniates when the outer layer of cartilage tears and the softer, inner, gelatinous material protrudes out of the disc. The disc’s nucleus will irritate nerve roots causing painful inflammation that could affect your ability to walk or change your bowel and bladder function.

Degenerative Disc Disease

One of the most common types of disc injuries isn’t generally considered to be an acute onset problem. Degenerative disc disease is an age-related condition in which the discs of the spine wear down over time and get smaller. When this happens, the holes on the side of the spine through which nerves exit get smaller, which can put pressure on these nerves and cause symptoms. Besides repetitive motion and wear and tear, other risk factors that accelerate its progression include being overweight/obese and smoking. Common symptoms include lower back pain, but radiating pain down into the hips and legs can also be felt depending on how much the nerves are being affected.

It’s important to understand that Degenerative Disc Disease cannot be reversed. It can, however, be managed and its progression can be slowed down. Chiropractic, spinal decompression, and exercise are three fantastic treatment options that can improve range of motion, decrease pain, and increase your overall function. Since the condition cannot be fully corrected, the goal then becomes both achieving and maintaining the highest quality of life possible. A chiropractic lifestyle can help make that a reality for you or someone you know who suffers from degenerative disc disease.

Slipped Disc

A herniated disc is often referred to as a slipped disc. When the outer cartilage becomes weak and tears allowing the inner gelatinous center of the disc to “slip” out. Age is a primary factor in this condition because of general wear and tear on the disc, but certain repetitive motions or improper lifting techniques increase the risk of a slipped disc. An untreated herniated or slipped disc can lead to permanent nerve damage, that’s why it’s so important to have any discomfort examined by a chiropractor who can perform imaging if necessary to get to the root cause of any symptomatic pain.

Repetitive Motion/Stress

As was mentioned earlier, disc injuries are commonly the result of a gradual process of wear and tear on the cartilage rings surrounding the nucleus. It isn’t so much the incident when you felt pain that is the cause, but rather the thousands of movements prior to that which slowly caused damage over time. For this reason, certain fields of work tend to have more disc injuries than others. One such example of this is hard labor jobs, such as a roofer, mechanics, and laborers.

These jobs require lots of bending, lifting, and twisting motions frequently throughout each shift. Putting the spine in flexion forward and rotation at the same time is the primary mechanism through which disc bulges and herniations can happen. The stress and pressure placed on these discs make them vulnerable and weak over time to where a simple motion can be the final straw that starts a cascade of pain and suffering. If you do this type of work for a living, being conscious of your posture and how you move and lift things is paramount to your safety and productivity at work.

Heavy Lifting

Lifting weights is a fantastic form of exercise that has been shown to provide numerous health benefits both physically and mentally. However, heavy lifting also places a great deal of stress on the body, and especially on the spine. Our spine is always bearing the weight of our head plus the weight of gravity. When we add weight on top of that, we increase the load on the discs in our spine. When a heavy lift is performed, it sharply increases intra-abdominal pressure, which also increases pressure in the spine. If there is pre-existing weakness in the discs, then the likelihood that they will bulge or herniate drastically increases.

It’s important to remember that heavy lifting doesn’t just occur in the gym. People move furniture around their house or move houses altogether. There are many circumstances in which lifting is necessary. If the lifting is done improperly, though, then the discs are at increased risk of getting injured in the process. Lifting should always be done primarily with the legs rather than bending at the waist and using the back. This is the best way to avoid unnecessary stress on your lower back.

Auto Accidents

It is important to remember that disc injuries can happen in other parts of the spine than just the lower back. The cervical spine (neck) is also a commonplace where disc injuries can occur. One common cause of disc injuries in the neck is auto accidents, especially when whiplash is involved. Whiplash occurs when the head moves violently back and forth in response to the impact of an auto accident. It damages the muscles and ligaments around the cervical spine, and can even cause damage to the discs as well. Symptoms can include neck pain, arm pain, numbness, tingling, burning, or weakness.

The Springfield Wellness Center can provide you with the care you need after your accident to get you back to pre-accident status (how you were feeling just before the accident occurred). We will work with both insurance companies and attorneys alike to make sure that the process is smooth and stress-free for you, which will help maximize and accelerate your recovery.

Respiratory Illness

In the midst of a pandemic, the world is very clued in on respiratory diseases such as COVID-19, the flu, and the common cold. Everyone is hyper-aware of each and every symptom they are experiencing. With respiratory illnesses such as these, it is widely known that two of the most common symptoms are coughing and sneezing. Unfortunately, these two activities have the potential to cause problems for the intervertebral discs in the spine.

Coughing and sneezing are 2 actions that require a sharp increase in intra-abdominal pressure. An increase in intra-abdominal pressure leads to increased pressure in the spine, and therefore, in the discs. If there is already damage sustained to a disc, then it is possible that a bout of coughing or sneezing that lasts a few weeks can cause further disc injury due to the constant spinal pressure being applied. If you feel this may have happened to you, the Springfield Wellness Center is here to help you. Provided, of course, that you are now symptom-free following your illness.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can chiropractors in Springfield, IL help with disc problems?

100%. Our doctors care for people with disc injuries on a daily basis. Our combination of treatments available at the Springfield Wellness Center makes us a premier destination to address this type of problem. Chiropractic, exercise, massage, deep tissue laser, and spinal decompression are some of the many services we have to offer to help naturally address your disc injury.

How long does it take for a disc injury to heal?

The length of time it takes for a disc injury to heal can vary greatly depending on the extent of the damage, the age of the problem, among other factors. Older, chronic problems tend to take more time than newer, acute problems. Your chiropractor will discuss treatment recommendations with you and how your progress will be documented so that the timeframe for care can be more clearly known.

Is it safe to go to a chiropractor with a herniated disc?

Yes! In fact, it is recommended that you start with a visit to the chiropractor because if they can help you with this problem without the need for expensive and risky medical procedures, then it is a no-brainer. More invasive treatment methods are always an option, but you should always start with the most conservative treatment and work your way from there.

What are the signs of a herniated disc in your back?

Signs and symptoms can vary from person to person, but generally speaking, herniated discs are known to cause intense, electric shock-like pain down into the legs due to how they are affecting the nerve. With herniations, there usually is not very much back pain due to the disc material pushing through that last layer of cartilage in the disc, but it can be present at times in certain cases.

Can chiropractors in Springfield, IL make things worse?

The great news about chiropractic is that the worst-case scenario from treatment for a disc injury is that no change happens. Chiropractic will not make this problem worse, but it is possible that it may not be effective for a particular case. In these cases, other types of intervention need to be considered. The vast majority of people will respond favorably to chiropractic for their disc injuries.