A herniated disc occurs when the membrane of the disc between one of your vertebrae ruptures, and the inner jelly-like material pushes out. The scientific name for the membrane is the annulus fibrosus and the name for the inner material is the nucleus pulposus. Herniated discs usually happen in the lower back, but they can occur anywhere in the spinal column including the thoracic and cervical. While this condition is sometimes called a “slipped disc,” the material doesn’t really slip. It is rather a bulging of the disc from its natural position that causes symptoms.
How Common Are Herniated Discs?
This is an incredibly common injury. It is estimated that every year, at least 2% of all people get a herniated disc. It is one of the most common causes of back, neck, arm, and leg pain. People who are over 30 years old are most likely to get a herniated disc, especially if they do work that requires repetitive motions or lifting heavy items. Smoking, being overweight, and sitting for long periods of time also increase the risk of damaging a vertebrae disc.
Common Causes of Slipped Discs
Many cases of disc herniation are caused by normal wear and tear. As you age, your spinal discs become less flexible. That makes them more prone to bulging. So, when you suddenly go to lift a heavy object, cough or sneeze very hard, or simply turn the wrong way, a disc herniation can occur.
However, accidents, like a fall or car crash, can also cause a herniated disc.
Why Are Car Accidents Such a Common Cause of Slipped Discs?
The sudden force from the accident can cause tears in the disc’s membrane, leading to a slipped or bulging disc. The force causes the body to move quickly in unnatural and irregular ways. These types of injuries can be insidious. With adrenaline flowing following a car crash, some people don’t notice back pain until hours or days later. That is why it’s always important to see a doctor soon after an accident.
How Common Are Car Accidents?
In Colorado specifically, there are more than 100,000 crashes each year. In 2019, over 3,000 people had serious injuries from a car accident in the state. Denver alone had about 18,000 car accidents in 2021.
Herniated Disc Symptoms
Some people have no symptoms from a herniated disc. In these cases, they may only discover the herniation when they have an X-ray or MRI for another reason. However, if you do have symptoms they may include:
Pain: A herniated disc in your lower back may cause you pain in your legs, buttocks, and/or feet. If you have a bulging disc in your neck, you may experience pain in your arms or shoulders. For herniated discs in the neck, your pain may get worse when you cough, laugh, or sneeze.
Tingling: Sometimes, the bulging disc presses on nerves that cause tingling sensations in the arms, buttocks, or legs. Herniated discs sometimes cause sciatica, which causes tingling and pain down the rear of the legs.
Weakness: Some herniated discs also result in weakness in your limbs. You may stumble more often, or have trouble grasping certain items or holding heavy objects.
These symptoms can decrease your quality of life and negatively impact your everyday activities.
Sometimes, a herniated disc can press on the spinal canal and block the nerves of the cauda equina. This important area controls the legs, bladder, and bowels. If you have increasing numbness in the saddle area or lose control of your bowels or bladder, contact your doctor for an examination.
When To See a Chiropractor for a Herniated Disc
Chiropractic care is a low-risk option for managing a herniated disc injury caused by a car accident or general degeneration. Chiropractic adjustments work to restore the disc’s natural position between the vertebrae, which can take several sessions combined with lifestyle alterations in order to achieve. However, in the immediate, chiropractic care can help reduce the symptoms and inflammation surrounding the slipped disc to help an individual experience improvements in their day-to-day life.
How Long Does it Take to Heal From a Slipped Disc?
Some people recover from a slipped disc in a few weeks by resting and taking over-the-counter pain medication. However, some cases may last longer than that. Some may even have lasting effects that lead to chronic pain. Each case is different. However, taking the proper steps to care for the injury can reduce healing time. Besides visiting a chiropractor, you can also try:
- Limiting your physical activity
- Apply heat and cold
- Take over-the-counter or prescription pain medication
- Take muscle relaxers if prescribed by a doctor
- Visiting an acupuncturist or massage therapist
Research shows that chiropractic care is especially helpful for people who have been experiencing back pain for longer than a month. Another study showed that five sessions of spinal manipulation improved pain and range of motion for people who had a confirmed and diagnosed herniated disc.
How Do Chiropractors Treat Herniated Discs Caused by Car Accidents?
The first thing your chiropractor will do is take your medical history and do a full-body exam. When it comes to a herniated disc, they will usually check specifically for intact reflexes, loss of sensation, and muscle weakness. Even if your disc bulge is caused by a car accident, the practitioner will ask you about other aspects of your health and lifestyle. Chiropractors work holistically and want to gain a full picture of your overall health. If medically necessary, a chiropractor will order an X-ray or MRI to get a better look at your spine.
Next, a personalized treatment plan will be developed. It may include spinal manipulations to move the bulge away from nerves and realign the joints, physical exercises to strengthen your back and core, and as well as other techniques. Chiropractic treatments for a slipped disc caused by a car accident are noninvasive and can promote general health and wellbeing in addition to alleviating the symptoms of a bulging disc.
The Best Herniated Disc Treatment in Denver
If you’re located in Denver, CO, you don’t need to go far to find the right chiropractor near you. At Reinhardt Chiropractic, our staff of specialists can create a personalized, holistic plan to help you treat your condition. Whether you’re looking for herniated disc treatment in Denver or need help with another condition, like anxiety, back pain, tension headaches, sports injuries, and more, we are dedicated to improving the quality of life for our community members. Learn more about our range of services or schedule an appointment with us today!