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The Diagnosis and Treatment of Disc Problems

woman getting diagnosis on back pain

Don’t live with the pain of disc problems. If you’re experiencing pain in your spine as a result of a disc injury, it’s important to get the problem diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. Your spine will thank you.

Let’s go over how disc problems are diagnosed and treated so you know what to expect when consulting a chiropractor about your back pain.

All About Spinal Disc Problems

Your spine is composed of 33 vertebrae which protect your spinal nerves. Your vertebrae compose the communication center for your entire body. Between each vertebra, there are soft, spongy discs that protect your spine and give it flexibility. In particular, the combination of discs and vertebrae give your back the ability to move and bend. Discs also protect the vertebrae by acting as padding between the bones.

You may experience problems with your discs when they’re moved unnaturally or placed under excess pressure. When your discs can’t do their job correctly, you’ll find yourself in pain and your spinal movement will be negatively affected.

Symptoms Of Disc Problems

You may develop a disc problem in your neck, middle/upper back or lower back. Regardless of location, you may experience these pain symptoms:

Three Common Types Of Disc Problems

There are three types of disc problems that you may be experiencing, depending on your situation. Each problem has a distinct cause, though all of them will be painful and affect your spinal health. Let’s take a closer look at all three.

1. Bulging Discs

A bulging disc results when the disc protrudes from its normal placement, usually due to pressure, trauma or decay. Whenever the disc loses its original shape, it begins to cause problems in the vertebrae structure. When this happens, the disc gets knocked out of place and lodges itself in an unnatural position. This can be extremely painful.

This may sound similar to a herniated disc, but it’s distinct in the sense that the entire disc bulges from its placement. In the case of a herniated disc, the disc and its spongy interior separate and the “gel” becomes dislocated.

2. Herniated Discs

A herniated disc is also called a slipped disc or a prolapsed disc. As previously mentioned, a herniated disc occurs when the disc begins to break down due to injury, stress or decay. When this happens, the disc wall cracks and release its interior “gel.” This “gel” then escapes and comes into contact with other nerves outside of the disc itself. The most common metaphor for a herniated disc is a doughnut and its filling separating and spilling into other areas.

3. Degenerative Disc Disease

As its name suggests, degenerative disc disease results from aging and decay. As these natural processes occur, discs decay, including their shape, outer wall, and overall health. With degeneration, disc problems start to become more likely. In general, when the disc problem is a result of degeneration, it’s called degenerative disc disease. However, degenerating conditions for discs may include bulging discs, herniated discs, or other problems such as spinal stenosis or osteoporosis.

Generally speaking, disc degeneration creates the following spinal changes and commonly affects the lumbar and cervical regions of the spine:

  • Disc “gel” becomes weak and injury-prone
  • Cracks develop in the outer disc layer
  • Loss of disc fluid, causing painful rubbing between vertebrae
  • Bone spurs that place pressure on spinal nerves

Self-Care For Your Disc Condition

While aging is a fact of life, you can maximize your spinal health in the following ways: 

  • Rest your back muscles by avoiding high-impact sports and jobs that involve heavy lifting.
  • Take care of your back with hot and cold compresses.
  • Stretch and exercise your back with a chiropractor-approved workout plan.
  • Wear a back brace designed to support a disc condition.
  • If you need to lift something, use proper lifting techniques.
  • Lose weight and quit smoking.
  • See a chiropractor regular for spinal care.

Diagnosing Disc Problems

When you’re experiencing any of the disc symptoms above, don’t let them go untreated. Your condition could lead to further injury or even heightened pain levels. As soon as you feel back pain with disc symptoms, contact your chiropractor for a check-up.

During your appointment, your chiropractor will try to diagnose your disc problem by looking at several key areas. He/she may physically examine your back and go over symptoms with you. In order to confirm a diagnosis, your chiropractor might also:

  • Discuss possible causes of injury
  • Test of nerve function and muscle strength
  • Review your medical and work history

Treating Disc Problems

After receiving a diagnosis, your chiropractor will then discuss treatment options and home care techniques as well. Depending on your specific situation and where your disc condition is located, different treatment options will be available, including:

  • Chiropractic care
  • Physical therapy
  • MCU therapy (for neck/upper back adjustments)
  • DRS system (for middle/upper back disc decompression)
  • Low back pain treatment (for lower back treatment)
  • Spinal decompression treatments

Usually, a combination of treatment options will be used, such as chiropractic treatments and physical therapy, plus therapy for your specific pain location (upper, middle or lower). These techniques are used together to provide long-term relief and healing.

Final Takeaway

Don’t hesitate to contact a chiropractor near you and start receiving treatments that will heal your disc condition and get you back on track. By treating your disc condition, you’ll get pain relief and prevent future spinal conditions. Specifically, look for a chiropractic clinic – such as Better Health Chiropractic in Anchorage – that offers modern treatment options like spinal decompression. This holistic approach to treating your back will keep it healthy for life.


About Dr. Brent Wells

Dr. Brent Wells is a graduate of the University of Nevada where he earned his bachelor of science degree before moving on to complete his doctorate from Western States Chiropractic College. He founded Better Health Chiropractic in Anchorage. He became passionate about being a chiropractor after his own experiences with hurried, unprofessional healthcare providers. The goal for Dr. Wells is to treat his patients with care and compassion while providing them with a better quality of life through his professional treatment.

Information provided on the Aeroflow Health blog is not intended as a substitute to medical advice or care. Aeroflow Health recommends consulting a doctor if you are experiencing medical issues or concerns.


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