In between each pair of vertebrae — bones in the spine —is a spongy structure called a disc. Discs are essential for helping the spine remain flexible, and they also act as shock absorbers to help prevent injury to the bones and nerves in the spine.
Each disc comprises a tough outer shell called the annulus fibrosus (or “fiber ring”) and a gel-like central portion called the nucleus pulposus which is made up of water and collagen fibers. The nucleus pulposus is spongy and flexible, helping the spine absorb impacts while also endowing it with a degree of elasticity.
These discs usually stay situated between the vertebrae, but sometimes they can slip out of position. When this happens a portion of the disc can extend beyond the edge of the bones, and become “pinched” between the vertebrae and press on the surrounding nerves. This is known as a herniated disc, and it’s frequently caused by excessive force from a car accident or slip-and-fall injury, or from repetitive movements like bending and lifting.
Herniated discs can also be caused by some underlying spine diseases. If the compression on the disc is very severe, the disc can begin to leak, resulting in additional nerve irritation.
Herniated discs can cause local pain and aching in the area of the spine where the bulging disc is located, most commonly the lower back or the neck. Plus, they also can cause pain, numbness, tingling, and similar symptoms along the entire nerve pathway.
Without treatment, some herniated discs can result in muscle weakness, muscle atrophy, loss of coordination in the hands or legs, and even loss of bladder or bowel control, depending on where the herniation occurs.
Dr. Bendis begins treatment with a review of the patient’s symptoms and a hands-on evaluation of the spine, usually accompanied by passive and active range-of-motion exercises to help pinpoint the precise location of the herniated disc.
Most herniated discs respond well to spinal adjustments designed to gently coax the disc back into its proper place between the vertebrae.
Spinal adjustments help realign the vertebrae, so the space between the bones can properly accommodate the disc as it slips back into place.
Spinal adjustments and other manual techniques promote circulation and relieve inflammation around the nerve to help eliminate both local and radiation symptoms.
And of course, Dr. Bendis will also provide lifestyle guidance to help prevent herniated discs in the future.
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