Disc Herniation & Low Back Pain

by Dr. Nathan Hinkeldey on August 22, 2012


Low back pain has plagued our nation for a long period of time. In fact, some studies suggest that up to 85% of Americans will experience low back pain at some point in their life. Low back pain can be related to several different named diagnoses which will be the topics of future blog posts. We’ll get started today with disc herniations.

Symptoms of Disc Herniation

Disc Herniation Causing Low Back PainDisc herniations can be the source of virtually any type of low back pain; however, as the severity increases, the most common symptoms include:

  • Radiating buttock, thigh, leg, and foot pain (sciatica).
  • Pain that is worse in the morning
  • Pain that is worse when bending forward and/or twisting at the waist.

The reason that the pain is often worse in the morning is because, as you sleep, the disc rehydrates and becomes larger at night, which causes additional inflammation and pressure one the nerve. As you move around throughout the day, gravity compresses the disc, driving fluid out and decreasing the height of the disc, which results in less pressure being exerted on the affected area.

A herniated disc is not something to be taken lightly. If left untreated, it can cause weakness of the extremities (atrophy), loss of sensation, and disruption of important functions like bowel or bladder control, which can lead to incontinence. Sexual dysfunction can also result. If you have bowel or bladder dysfunction, numbness in-between your legs (saddle anesthesia), major muscle weakness in the lower extremity, or other neurological indicators, it is important that you seek immediate medical attention to prevent these condition from becoming permanent.

How Do Disc Herniations Occur?

Disc herniations occur commonly because of repeated spinal flexion. Often, patients state that they injured themselves bending over to pick up their child, a pencil, their luggage, or some other relatively lightweight object. But don’t misunderstand – bending over to pick up that one object did not result in a disc herniation. Instead, the damage was more likely caused by prolonged sitting, deconditioning of the core, and/or repeated spinal flexion, examples of which are illustrated below. Picking up that pencil or cell phone was merely the straw that broke the camel’s back – or your back, as it were.

Take a moment to think about all of the time you are seated behind a desk, in a car, or even working out in the gym. How often are you in the position to the right? If, like most office workers, you spend most of your day slouching in this manner, then your risk suffering from low back pain associated with disc herniation.

Chiropractic Treatment for Low Back Pain

While spinal manipulation has been shown to be effective in managing acute low back pain, the treatment should not stop here. Research has given us many other things to consider, including appropriate exercises and stretches that should be performed in order to speed the recovery. More than half of the individuals with low back pain note some improvement within the first 7 days of conservative care. The reason that you should seek out therapy is because you do not want this to become a chronic issue. Patients who do not receive proper education on how to prevent these things from recurring or proper home exercises and stretches will likely become constant repeat patients.

If you are tired of managing your pain and having to continue to return for care well after your initial injury, Team Chiropractic and Rehabilitation, your Johnston Chiropractor would love to evaluate your condition and offer a second opinion. Also, continue to follow our blog as the next few weeks we will be discussing some more important information regarding this topic, including how to prevent disc herniations from occurring.


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