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Disc Injury Treatment at San Diego Chiropractic Neurology

Disc Injury Conditions Treatment in San Diego CA

Low back pain is something 80% of people will experience at some point in their life. What’s even crazier is it is actually the number one cause of disability in the US. When most people think about back pain, the first thought that usually comes to mind is that a muscle tweak, poor posture, or sleeping in the wrong position caused it. This might be true in some cases, but a lesser known yet equally common cause of low back pain is a disc injury.

Our spinal discs sit between each of the bones in your spine. They are kind of like a jelly donut. The fibrous outer shell is like the crust, and the fluid center is like the jelly. Discs, like most tissue in your body, wear down and become dehydrated over time which causes the outer fibers of the disc to tear. This allows the jelly center to push on the disc’s most worn down and weakest points, potentially pushing right through the disc’s outer wall. This is called a disc herniation. A herniation is typically the beginning early stage of most disc injuries. As time progresses, an injured disc will wear down even further, and the tear will get wider. That means more of the jelly is going to bulge out. Unsurprisingly, the medical term for this is a disc bulge.

Most disc injuries happen in the neck (the cervical spine) and the lower back (the lumbar spine) because of how our bodies are designed and the activities we enjoy. When we get symptoms in those regions, we can end up with obvious things like neck pain and back pain, but we can also end up with nerve sensations like sciatica, shooting pains, numbness and tingling, burning, and cooling. If it’s bad enough, we can have weakness in certain body parts.

This is so important to deal with issues as soon as possible. We only have a particular window of time to disrupt this process and prevent things from worsening. By not addressing the problem, the disc will continue to bulge out and flatten, and you could end up in a surgeon’s office if it gets bad enough. The problem is it doesn’t just stop with the surgeon’s office. Most likely, you will have to modify, limit, or completely give up some of the things you used to do on a daily basis – golfing, hiking, exercising, chores around the house, or maybe even working. If you try to mask the pain with painkillers, you might miss that opportune window where you could have used more conservative treatment options to potentially keep you out of the surgeon’s office. Taking painkillers won’t make the disc injury go away. They will just make you less aware of things you might be doing that are making it worse.

We want to avoid this snowballing effect. This is why we provide comprehensive solutions for our disc-injured patients. Not only will we treat your disc, but we will also address the root of what caused your disc injury to happen.

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How We Treat Disc Injury in San Diego, CA

Comprehensive Consultation and Exam

The first step to determining the best treatment for your disc injury is to have a doctor run through a comprehensive consultation and examination. Disc herniations and disc bulges are serious injuries. If you don’t approach them as such, you could end up suffering long-term consequences.

This is why we are thorough. Our doctors will start by asking you a series of essential questions to help them build a picture of what is happening with your discs. They will then run through an evaluation that includes orthopedic testing, motor/sensory/reflex nerve testing, strength testing, etc. These tests help the doctors further narrow down what is causing your disc issues.

The final piece our doctors will need to evaluate is an MRI of your spine. Once our doctors combine all the information from your history, examination, and MRI, they will have a complete picture of the root cause of your injury. Based on that, if you are a good candidate for treatment at our clinic, the doctor will lay out your custom roadmap to recovery. This tailored treatment plan will get you back to a healthy, active, and pain-free life.

Spinal Decompression in San Diego, CA

Discs have multiple functions for our spine. The first is to act as a shock absorber. The discs sit between each vertebra in our spine. When there is any increased load on the spine, the discs serve as a buffer. The second thing the discs are essential for is creating space between the vertebrae for the nerves to branch out from our spinal cord and help control our arms, legs, and trunk. Keeping these discs healthy is essential to keep our functions in those body parts optimized and pain-free.

As we covered above, discs are a lot like jelly donuts. They have an outer shell of fibrous cartilage and an inner gelatinous layer – like jelly. When the outer shell gets worn down, the jelly inside will leak out, causing a herniation and, over time, a bulge. This can cause tremendous pain that can travel into your glutes, thigh, legs, and even feet. If it’s bad enough, it can actually cause weakness in your legs or even issues with incontinence in your bowel or bladder.

The good news is that there are non-surgical and drug-free treatment options for disc injuries. One of our favorites is spinal decompression. Our spinal decompression machines allow us to precisely target the injured disc. The decompression machine gently stretches your spine open, creating a vacuum effect that will help restore the disc to its healthy shape.

Spinal decompression is the foundation of a good recovery from a disc injury. That being said, it is just one piece of the puzzle. Other essential pieces you will need are chiropractic adjustments, soft tissue mobilization, and rehabilitative exercises. The chiropractic adjustments help ensure that all the bones heal in good alignment to reduce the chance of re-injury. Soft tissue mobilization is important for clearing out any scar tissue or adhesions built up around the muscles and nerves. Cleaning this out will help keep the nerves and muscles from getting tight and irritated. Finally, once everything is in a better position and the tissues are no longer irritated, you must start strengthening your body. This is not as simple as doing a few core exercises. You must assess what muscle groups are out of balance and help correct them. You will also have to learn how to move your body effectively to keep from hurting yourself again. A happy disc is a happy body.

Deep Tissue Laser

Low-level laser therapy can be a powerful addition to any disc injury recovery. When most people hear the word ‘laser,’ they think of laser hair removal or small surgical procedures. That’s because there are many types of lasers. Some are very powerful and can burn things, while others are so low that you won’t even feel anything. Low-level laser is exactly like the name describes, very low power. The advantages of using a low-power laser are that they are very safe and have many health benefits.

Low-level lasers utilize photobiomodulation, a special light frequency that can create a biological change in our cells. Our cells have some overlapping qualities to the way plants photosynthesize. When the sun shines on a plant, it is an energy source to help them grow and stay healthy. When you shine a low-level laser over your cells, the energy-producing mitochondria feed off the laser frequency and create more energy. With more energy, the cells can repair and heal tissues faster. In addition, we know that laser therapy can help reduce inflammation and swelling. The same inflammation we may use ice on or take over-the-counter medciation to resolve.

Finally, the laser promotes good blood flow to the tissues bringing in new building blocks to help speed up the recovery process. The discs that sit in between our spine happen to have poor blood flow. It is one of many reasons these injuries heal poorly. The laser is like hitting four birds with one stone. You will promote good blood flow to the disc, reduce inflammation and swelling in the area, relax the muscles, and increase the energy production inside the cells to boost recovery and healing time. Our lasers are gentle, have no side effects, take only 5-10 minutes, and can improve your recovery by leaps and bounds.

Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care is a staple treatment for almost every disc herniation or bulge recovery. The discs are spacers that sit between each of the bones (vertebrae) in your spine. So it’s not that far-fetched that the bones themselves can significantly influence how smooth the recovery goes. Research shows that when your spine is in proper alignment, it will help reset any spasmed and tight muscles. Ensuring the vertebrae and the tailbone are in proper alignment will ensure the discs are in an optimal position to recover and minimize unwanted muscle tension. All in all, this will reduce the chance of re-injury

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Common Causes of Disc Injury in San Diego, CA

Chronic Sitting

Sitting at a desk or in a car puts you into a position we call hip flexion. This is not a problem for short durations of time, but if you are doing this for multiple hours a day, multiple days a week, this can turn into a big issue. Long consistent periods of sitting are actually a slow and serious trauma. A few important things start to change with our bodies over time as a result of this. The first is that our connective tissue and fascia begin to remodel and contract into the positions we are in the most throughout the day. Basically, our body adapts to a seated posture rather than a healthy upright standing posture. This is why over the years, it gets harder and harder to stand up without having to stretch yourself open after sitting.

The second thing that happens is that the muscles that help you stand upright weaken. Your hip flexor muscles tighten up and continue to get tighter with every seated hour. The opposing muscles to this that help you stand up are your glutes. They will shut off. You spend too much time seated, so your brain says, “we don’t need our glutes for that. We might as well just power them down.” In tandem with this, some of the muscles attached to your lumbar spine (lower back) will atrophy and weaken. The weakness in those muscles will not only cause abnormal wear and tear in your spine, but it will cause instability. Some of those small muscles in your lumbar spine help keep the discs in place.

When your spine is unstable, the vertebrae above and below the disc are prone to more movement than is optimal. This can cause more of a shearing motion to occur, which can damage the outer disc. With every movement, there is more compounding damage; eventually, the disc can herniate. Even worse, since your glutes are weak, you will have some pelvic instability. Your pelvis sits right below your spine, so you will also experience shearing of the disc that sits between those two structures. It is a recipe for disaster.

Heavy lifting

For some, lifting heavy objects is a regular occurrence; for others, it’s rare. Regardless of where you are on that spectrum, the risk of injuring your disc is very high if you are not careful. One of the most common activities that involve heavy lifting is weight training.

Weight training has a plethora of health benefits that come with it. However, not without a cost. Any exercise that loads the spine has the potential to wear down the discs and eventually cause a disc injury. Exercises like squats, deadlifts, lunges, etc., are the most common culprits. The more weight you lift, the more it will compress the discs. In addition, poor form can expedite your route to injury. You can herniate a disc on your first go at an exercise with poor form.

Less common heavy lifting activities are moving heavy furniture or appliances around unless it’s your occupation. If this is not something you do for work, the chances of you screwing up the form are extremely high. Objects come in different shapes and sizes, and finding a good grip can sometimes be challenging. Movers have all sorts of ergonomically sound tools at their disposal to help them keep from injury themselves, but the average individual doesn’t. The same concepts apply here. You will increase the load on the spine, wear down the outer cartilage, and potentially herniate the jelly inside. We recommend avoiding this risk whenever possible and hiring professionals to do the job for you. The cost of the injury compared to hiring movers is priceless.

Repetitive Motion and Stress

Repetitive movements are basically little micro traumas that add up over time. If we make the same motion over and over and over again, our tissue will wear down. Work is the most common place to endure wear and tear from repetitive movements. Hard labor jobs like roofing, mechanics, custodians, nurses, etc., can involve a lot of flexion and rotation in the lumbar spine. Our lumbar spine is not meant to move in those ways. Those are the exact movements that can create those micro-traumas in your spine and discs. Each compounding trauma will whittle the disc down until it tears. Then we end up with a herniation. You take painkillers and push through it, and eventually, you end up with a disc bulge. Your work and how you move at work can come at a serious cost. How you move can cause a disc injury or set you up for it.

Degenerative Disc Disease vs. Slipped Disc

Disc injuries can come in many shapes and sizes. Two of the more common types are degenerative disc disease and slipped disc. A slipped disc is another term for a herniated disc. It is typically caused by an acute injury where a specific activity or trauma causes the disc to herniate (slip) out.

Degenerative disc disease is something that occurs over a long period of time. Your discs will dry out, shrink, and get brittle as you age. As they shrink, the jelly donuts (discs) flatten like a pancake. They turn into disc bulges. Those bulges can obstruct the space where your nerves and spinal cord live. You can end up with a number of different nerve symptoms, like numbness, tingling, burning, and pain as a result. Slipped or herniated discs have the potential to heal if you get proper intervention early on. However, degenerative disc disease is a different story. These are more permanent changes that are going to require long-term maintenance.

Auto Accidents

Just like we have discs in our lumbar spine that can get injured, we also have discs in our cervical spine – aka our neck – that can herniate. Cervical disc issues are likely from whiplash rather than a compressive load.

Whiplash most commonly occurs during an auto accident. On top of our neck sits our head which is basically a 10lb bowling ball. When that bowling ball whips back and forth, it puts tremendous shearing stress on our neck and cervical spine. That shearing stress can damage all sorts of tissues, including your discs which can tear and herniate. A cervical disc injury can result in pain, numbness, tingling, weakness, etc., in your neck, shoulders, arms, and hands.

Getting the appropriate evaluation and treatment with these early on can make a difference in your recovery. Our clinic has managed hundreds of auto accident injuries. Those who are good candidates for our auto accident treatment options have a high success rate of returning to pre-injury status. We will also work with your auto insurance and attorneys to make sure the process is smooth and stress-free for you.

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Frequently Asked Disc Injury Questions

Can chiropractors in San Diego, California help with disc problems?

Yes, absolutely. Disc injuries are a very common condition our chiropractors work with on a daily basis. It is a particular condition that our clinic specializes in treating.

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

It is safe to go to a chiropractor with a herniated disc. In fact, it is highly recommended you see a chiropractor. Most people with disc injuries are either not a good candidate for surgery or would like to find less invasive options than surgery and medication for their disc herniation. Our clinic has helped hundreds of patients do exactly that.

Can chiropractors in San Diego, California make things worse?

The chiropractors at San Diego Chiropractic Neurology utilize low-impact and decompressive treatment options. Not only are these treatments safe, but they are highly effective. The worst-case scenario is that no change happens.

Can you massage a bulging disc back into place?

No, this is not something you can or should massage. Massaging surrounding areas can sometimes be beneficial, but you should never have it done directly over the injured disc.

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

Some potential signs of a herniated disc are numbness, tingling, radiating pain or nerve sensations, weakness, sciatica, and tight muscles in your leg(s). You also might feel the symptoms worsen when you cough, sneeze, or go to the bathroom.

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