When you hear the term “slipped” or “ruptured” disc in the neck or lower back, what this actually means is a herniated disc is a common cause of pain in the neck, lower back, arms, or legs.
Anatomy of the neck
Discs are soft, rubbery pads found between the hard bones (vertebrae) that comprise the spinal column. The discs between the vertebrae enable the neck to flex or bend and also act as shock absorbers.
Causes of a disc bulge
A disc herniates or ruptures when part of the center nucleus pushes through the periphery of the disc and back toward the spinal canal. This places pressure on the nerves. Spinal nerves are extremely sensitive to even slight amounts of pressure.
Risk factors for a disc bulge
In children and young adults, discs have high-water content. As we get older, the water content in the discs reduces and the discs become less flexible. The discs start to shrink and the spaces between the vertebrae get narrower. Conditions that can weaken the disc include:
• Improper lifting
• Excessive body weight that places added stress on the discs
• Sudden pressure (which may be slight)
• Repetitive strenuous activities
Symptoms of a disc bulge in the neck
• Neck pain is also the most common symptom, which can refer down the arm.
• Pain can also be referred in the muscles between your neck and shoulder (trapezius muscles) from pressure placed on a nerve in the neck.
• Headaches in the back of the head can result from the neck pain.
• Weakness in one arm
• Tingling (“pins-and-needles” sensation) or numbness in one arm
• Burning pain in the shoulders, neck, or arm
Treatment for a disc bulge
Chiropractic treatment is effective in treating the symptoms of herniated discs in more than 90% of patients. These can include:
• Muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatory medications can be helpful.
• Cold compresses or ice can be applied a couple of times a day for 20 minutes at a time.
• After any spasms settle, gentle heat applications can be employed.
• Any physical exercise needs to be slow and controlled, particularly bending forward and lifting. This will help to ensure that symptoms do not return-as can taking short walks and avoiding sitting for long periods. To avoid future episodes of pain, it is important that you be instructed in how to properly stand, sit, and lift.
• If these nonsurgical treatment measures fail, cortisone injections may lessen nerve irritation and enable more effective participation in chiropractic treatment.