Slipped disc

This has many names: disc herniation, disc prolapse, disc bulge, disc protrusion, ‘slipped disc’.

The intervertebral discs are strong, flexible cartilage circles that sit in-between every pair of bones in your spine (vertebra). They act as a shock absorber to translate force down or up the spine. When a disc is injured it the jelly like substance in the centre can push through the outer layers that surround it and cause inflammation or compression to the nerve next to it. This can cause a variety of symptoms in the back or leg.
Chiropractors are able to preform tests to diagnose a likely disc problem. This than then later be confirmed with a scan if necessary. An MRI scan will show a slipped disc and as you can see from the images below it can be very obvious:


On the left you can see a side image of the spine on an MRI. There are two large disc bulges in the lower two discs of the spine. There is a zoomed in version on the right.


There are many stages to a slipped disc:


Stage 1 – an injury causes the jelly like centre of the disc to tear the outer fibres that hold the disc in place. It can be very painful as some of the layers tear through.

Stage 2 – the jelly now pushes the outer layers out into a bulge and this causes inflammation that can irritate the nerve however it is not compressing it.

Stage 3 – the prolapse is now pressing the exiting nerve so symptoms may now increase or go down the leg

Stage 4 – this is the most severe and also the least common stage. The jelly has now broken through layers and is free floating compressing most of the nerve, this is very serious.

I have a slipped disc can it recover? 
The pain associated with a slipped disc is usually due to inflammation and this should ease with treatment. Specific exercises to strengthen the back can significantly improve the pain and increase the motion of the back. If looked after correctly there is no reason why a slipped disc can’t be pain free and the back strong, however it is unlikely to ever return to its original place.

Daily lifestyle, poor posture, lifting and stress all contribute over time to a stiff and weak lower back. A simple, quick movement on a weak back can be the final straw for the disc, leading to damage.

How can chiropractic help? 
Chiropractors are trained in diagnosing the cause of the pain using many tests to find the problem so we can find a way of treating it. Chiropractors use small force movements known as adjustments to the back along with muscle relaxing techniques to treat the problem. By making the spine move properly and exercising the muscles that support the spine many disc conditions can be improved.

To help find that cause we offer:

  • A Private Consultation with the Doctor of Chiropractic
  • A Thorough Examination including Neurological, Orthopaedic & Blood Pressure Tests
  • X-Rays, if necessary
  • A Verbal Report of our Findings and thorough Explanation of the X-Rays

After which you should know more about your body and the problems you are experiencing than you ever have before. Whether you go ahead with treatment, as always, is entirely your decision


Santilli V, Beghi E, Finucci S. Chiropractic manipulation in the treatment of acute back pain and sciatica with disc protrusion: a randomized double-blind clinical trial of active and simulated spinal manipulations. Spine J. 2006 Mar-Apr;6(2):131-7. Epub 2006 Feb 3.


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