The Proper Treatment Of Disc Herniations

The Pain You Feel From a Disc Herniation

The intervertebral disc is cartilage between the spinal bones that acts as a shock absorber. Herniation of a spinal disc happens when the center or nucleus of the disc bulges or protrudes towards the back. Disc herniations in the neck can cause pain that radiates into the shoulder and arm and a disc herniation in the lower back will typically cause pain that radiates into the hip and leg. These problems are usually worse in the morning because the disk will rehydrate overnight when you sleep. Therefore, you’re a little taller in the morning than you are in the evening and there is a little more disk material between the bones in the morning. The most effective conservative treatment for these conditions is the use of  ice, electrical muscle stimulation, traction, chiropractic manipulative therapy and therapeutic exercises.

Treatments You Can Do

Most herniated discs will cause an acute condition which results in severe pain and inflammation. Ice and electrical muscle stimulation is recommended in order to decrease pain, spasm and inflammation. Ice in the form of an ice pack, bag of ice or even frozen vegetables can be used for 20 minutes every hour as needed. The ice should be very cold and should initially creates some pain which eventually turns to numbness. It is important to not over ice and create a first-degree frostbite or what athletes sometimes referre to as “ice burn”. When used properly ice should create a redness of the skin. Frostbite occurs when white crystals begin to form on the skin in small patches.

Treatments With Your Practitioner

Traction can be an effective treatment for disc herniations. Applying traction to the spine can separate the vertebrae creating a negative pressure in the disk. This process  can reverse the forces that gravity applies to the disk causing it herniate further. The center of the disk can migrate back into the center of the disc were it belongs. Traction has been used in the chiropractic profession for the past 30 or more years with good results.

The new buzzword in our profession is “spinal decompression”. The difference between traction and spinal decompression, in my opinion, is that insurance companies will pay about $10 for a session of traction and spinal decompression does not have a medically approved billing code. Marketing companies which lease spinal decompression tables to doctors will often instruct the doctors to have the patient pay out-of-pocket $50-$80 per treatment. They will typically recommend payment for 20 treatments up front at a cost of $1600-$2000. You should typically know after two or three treatments whether it is going to help or not. If 10 treatments didn’t help, then 10 more likely wouldn’t either.

An  inversion table, which can be purchased for $200-$300, can be as effective at a significant savings in cost. The only drawback to using an inversion table is the blood rushing to your head and that people may complain of ankle pain due to the person’s body weight pulling on the ankles.

Also it is important to include chiropractic manipulative therapy when treating a disc herniation because misalignment of the bones of the spine can apply abnormal pressure to the disk and contribute to the herniation which can prevent inward migration of the center of the disc.  Also certain exercises can be performed in order to help allow the disc to go back into place. Electrical muscle stimulation can also be used to decrease in spasm and inflammation.

I have been treating patients with these conditions at my chiropractic office in North Olmsted, Ohio for the past 16 years and have been getting excellent results by using this conservative approach.