You know those mornings where it feels like you just woke up on the wrong side of the bed because of how stiff your neck is? Sometimes it’s hard to determine whether your neck pain is a result of the activities of a physically demanding lifestyle or something more serious.
If you have a disc that has lost its shape and performance, they’re what we call slipped discs.
Your discs act as shock absorbers for your neck. They assist you in transferring your body weight evenly. When your disc slips, your entire spinal column might be affected.
Here’s what you need to know:
The Spinal Structure
The Vertebrae in Your Neck
As you know, your spine is composed of bones called vertebrae that surround your spinal cord. These bones can be subdivided into five regions: cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral, and coccyx. Your cervical vertebrae are in your neck and upper back, your thoracic vertebrae are in your mid-back, and your sacral vertebrae are in your lower back.
You have seven cervical vertebrae at the base of your skull. They work together to support the skull and enable neck movements up and down and side to side. Vertebrae C1-C7 are incredibly important in your overall mobility and anything out of place can lead to pressure on the spinal cord, especially C1 and C2.
A Healthy Disc
A spinal disc (or disk) are the jelly-like pads that rest between the vertebrae. Intervertebral discs keep the vertebrae separated during impact from normal activities. At the core of each disc is the nucleus pulposus which allows the vertebrae to withstand torsion and compression. There are 24 discs in your spine altogether to support your 33 vertebrae. Each set of discs correlates to a portion of your spine (lumbar disc = part of your lumbar spine).
If you begin to feel pain, it’s possible that that pain may be radiating from an unhealthy disc. Different stages of a slipped disc in the neck are: a bulging disc, a herniated or slipped disc, and a sequestrated disc. An out of place disc can place pressure on your spinal nerves and cause you pain. Today, we’ll discuss the most common subtypes of neck disc slips.
In short, a healthy disc is a disc you don’t feel. However, an unhealthy disc will not cause pain straight away.
Stage 1: Bulging Disc
A bulging disc happens when the soft cartilage in the spinal column protrudes. There are common symptoms associated with a bulging disc since they can occur anywhere in the spinal column, including within the vertebrae in the neck. Although they can be painless in general, a bulging disc can become very uncomfortable when they become irritated and put pressure on the spine.
Causes of Bulging Disc
There are many factors that can cause one of your discs to bulge:
- Vehicle accident
- Already existing annulus weakness
- Body mechanics and poor posture that put stress on your nerves
- Torsion from repetitive work with a lot of bending, twisting or lifting
- Sitting, standing, driving, or working for long periods of time
- Sustaining neck pain or injury from a severe fall
- Repetitive forceful motions in certain sports
- Poor heavy lifting techniques, like bending forward to pull with your back can lead to sudden excessive load
- Abdominal fat and poor core stability
- Reduced lower limb strength
- People genetically predisposed to have lesser density of fibrocartilaginous fibers that make up the disc
Symptoms of Bulging Disc
For a bulging disc, pain is the most significant symptom. However, they are also one of the most challenging for a health professional to diagnose as you do not necessarily experience pain at the source of the bulge.
Other symptoms of a bulging disc may include:
If you experience any of these symptoms, you should immediately seek medical attention from your chiropractor so that he or she can provide recommended healing options, including chiropractic care. Catching an inflamed disc early may increase your ability to get your pain under control quickly.
Treatments for Bulging Disc
Different treatments can help you resolve a bulging disc in six to twelve weeks. Your primary care doctor may recommend surgery.
However, chiropractic care is an option that will treat your bulging disc holistically. This is more popular as it doesn’t require invasive surgery.
Your chiropractor can work to help you correct posture and strengthen your body. If traditional and conservative treatment methods do not correct the problem, then you may have to seek more advanced treatment options such as surgery and/or lifestyle changes.
Stage 2: Herniated Disc
If the outer layer of your slipped neck disc ruptures, then the soft gel center can start leaking into your spinal canal.
When the gel and outer disc touches against your spinal column’s nerve roots, it can cause severe pain.
This is known as a herniated disc.
Sometimes called a prolapsed disc or a slipped disc, a herniated disc may cause massive amounts of pain and result in more severe health issues than a bulging disc.
Causes of Herniated Disc
There are numerous situations and factors that can trigger a slipped disc. Causes of a slipped disc include:
- Your age
- Past physical trauma
- Family history
Symptoms of Herniated Disc
A slipped disc is most frequently located in the lower back and neck. These are the most flexible parts of the spine, unlike the center of your back. Since these discs account for numerous movements, they also experience the most stress and strain due to daily activities.
If you are experiencing mild disc herniation, then you may not experience any symptoms whatsoever. However, some people do experience pain since the condition largely affects the nerves through nerve compression. Pain is the most common symptom of a herniated disc.
Other slipped disc symptoms may include:
- Dull, achy feelings on one side of the body
- Pain when coughing, sneezing, or moving
- Burning, tingling, numbness or weakness in the affected area
- Muscle weakness or spasms
- Poor bodily posture
- Significant balance or limping issues
- Slow reflexive responses
If you’re experiencing similar symptoms, it might be good to create a daily journal to take note of your symptoms and pain levels. This information will be helpful for your chiropractor when assessing your specific condition.
Treatment Options for Herniated Disc
The good news is that people with a slipped disc tend to respond well to non-surgical options for pain relief!
There are other lifestyle changes and adjustments that you can make to support your health and well-being and reduce the chances of a slipped disc.
Lifestyle changes to make may include:
- Losing weight
- Quitting cigarettes
- Healthy diet habits
- Epidural injections
- Chiropractic care
If these options do not provide relief, then surgery may be the best option. Some procedures are fairly easy to perform and require no in-patient care.
Types of surgery performed on a slipped disc include:
Before considering surgery, it’s important to seek advice from your doctor or chiropractor.
There is a broad range of treatment options when it comes to treating a slipped disc. However, you should not put off the task of seeking advice from a health professional. The longer you wait to seek treatment, the more time it takes for you to get your life back on track.
Stage 3: Sequestrated Disc
A sequestrated disc occurs when a disc fragment breaks away from the spinal nerve root. It can start as a slipped disc that leaks and may graduate to the more severe form of a sequestrated disc.
Causes of Sequestrated Disc
An untreated slipped disc may cause the formation of a sequestrated disc. A sequestrated disc occurs when a portion of a slipped disc leaks out or pushes from a tear in the outer wall of the disc. At its worst, this leads to complete detachment, and detached pieces may be broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream. An x-ray or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan may be necessary to find a sequestrated disc.
Symptoms of Sequestrated Disc
As with any sequestrated disc, symptoms are generally caused by the free-floating fragments entering a bodily extremity. The free fragment’s location will help your chiropractor determine which extremity is experiencing symptoms.
For example, if the neck area is absorbing the free fragment, then it is possible to suffer from symptoms in one arm or another. If the fragment is sitting in your lower back, then one leg may face problems.
Other symptoms of a sequestrated disc are similar to a herniated disc:
- Burning sensation
- Pins and needles sensation
- Numbness in one area
- And more
Your chiropractor or doctor will review your medical history and the symptoms you are experiencing. From there, he or she will provide a therapeutic option to address the problem for the short and long-term.
Treatment Options for Sequestrated Disc
A sequestrated disc does not necessarily require surgery. However, it is possible that you may have to use surgery as a last resort. For example, you could first visit a chiropractor to provide therapy and other forms of conservative care.
Chiropractic treatments can help prevent the added stress of surgery, and it is imperative to understand that it may be your only option after trying other forms. Keep in mind that surgical procedures are challenging for surgeons and carry a higher risk than non-invasive procedures.
What About My Lower Back?
The vertebrae that comprise your low back are as sensitive as the vertebrae in your neck. Your neck and low back vertebrae are extremely flexible to enhance your mobility, but this means it’s easier to injure these vertebrae. Although this article primarily deals with a slipped disc in the cervical region, it’s important to know that a slipped disc may also be the cause of lower back pain.
Herniated Lumbar Discs
A slipped disc in your lumbar region can lead to low back pain and potentially leg pain and muscle weakness. Numbness or tingling in your lower back region may be a sign that you have a slipped disc. Anti-inflammatory chiropractic measures can be implemented to ease your pain in ways similar to pain management for cervical vertebrae.
A prolapsed disc in a lumbar vertebra can also lead to damage of your sciatic nerve. Your sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in your body and connects your spinal cord to your lower body. If a prolapsed disc becomes Sciatica, medication and chiropractic care can relieve people of their back and neck pain.
Your doctor or chiropractor can gather your health information to give you professional advice that will help you get your slipped disc back into place.
Cauda Equina Syndrome
Untreated slipped discs in your lumbar region can lead to Cauda Equina Syndrome. The Cauda Equina are a cluster of nerves below the end of the spinal cord. If damaged, people will experience lower back pain, leg pain, and bladder or bowel issues. CES can only be treated through surgery, so it’s important to get professional advice for a prolapsed disc before it progresses too far.
Vitality Chiropractic Offers Responsive Care to Relieve Neck Pain
When you are facing the challenges associated with a bulging, slipped, or sequestrated neck disc, Vitality Chiropractic is here to help!
Neck pain doesn’t have to be something you force yourself to deal with. We know how prolapsed discs can get on your nerves, and that’s why we offer solutions.
We use cutting-edge techniques, nerve tests, and x-rays to gain insight into your condition. Once we’ve identified the cause of your pain, we can help you feel better as soon as possible. We can establish a plan for physical therapy to get your bulging or prolapsed disc back into place.
Instead of searching for a short-term solution that will only put you back in pain and asking for help, come join us at Vitality Chiropractic for long term solutions. Say goodbye to neck pain for good!
If you are ready to enhance your quality of life, call 8438 9550, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or complete the request form below to book your next appointment.
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