Is Chiropractic Care Actually The Best Option For Herniated Disks? [Research]
“My Physician Diagnosed Me With A Disc Herniation. Can You Help?”
I hear the same question from patients suffering from disc herniations every week. They’re dealing with sharp, debilitating back pain, perhaps even with sciatic pain down the leg, and their MRI came back with the diagnosis of a bulged or herniated disc. Fortunately, the answer is usually “Yes, you’re in the right place.”
What Is A Disc Bulge Or Disc Herniation?
Your spine is composed of 24 vertebra separated by intervertebral discs which work like shock absorbers and act as a fulcrum to allow smooth movement of the vertebra. Spinal discs have two layers: the annulus fibrosus, a thick ligament-like outer layer, and the nucleus pulposus, a jelly-like center primarily made up of water.
A disc “bulge” results when small tears occur in the thick outside fibers of the annulus fibrosus, leading to a bulging of the disc past its normal boundaries and extra pressure placed on the soft tissues around it. Patients with disc bulges often experience back pain, stiffness and muscle tenderness.
A disc “herniation”, also called a disc protrusion or extrusion, is a more significant injury. Disc herniations occur when the fibers of the annulus fibrosis are completely torn and some of the gelly-like nucleus pulposus leaks through. This type of disc problem also causes extra pressure on the soft tissues surrounding the disc, but in a herniation nerves and even the spinal cord can be compressed, often leading to radiating nerve pain and sciatica.
How A Chiropractor Can Help
Chiropractic treatment takes stress off spinal discs by correcting misalignments between vertebra in the spine, minimizing the extra wear and tear that leads to damage of the annulus fibrosus.
A recent study from The Journal of Manipulative and Physiologic Therapeutics confirms that the vast majority of patients suffering from both chronic and acute herniated discs can find relief from their symptoms with chiropractic treatment. In fact, according to the study, 9 out of 10 disc herniation patients report a substantial decrease in pain and disability within three months of beginning chiropractic care.
Researchers conducting the study followed 148 participants with lumbar disc herniations that were causing back pain, sciatica, and/or radiating leg symptoms. The majority of the participants reported chronic pain lasting three months or more prior to the beginning of the study. 37 patients had acute symptoms that had been present for less than four weeks prior the study.
The disc herniation patients were treated by chiropractors using specific spinal adjustments based on MRI and x-ray findings. After two weeks of treatment, 70% of the participants reported significantly improved levels of pain and disability. Without treatment, only 36% of disc herniation sufferers typically show significant improvement after two weeks. After three months of chiropractic care, 90.5% of the participants reported resolution or substantial improvements in disability and pain, with no recurrence of symptoms at the six-month and one-year evaluations.
The results are encouraging for health care providers, as clinical research continues to bring the safety and effectiveness of epidural corticosteroid injections into question. A 2010 study published in The Lancet found that, while cortisone injections can provide fast and significant pain relief, after six months, people who received cortisone shots had a much lower rate of full recovery and much higher rate of relapse than those who did nothing.
Additionally, a study from the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery published last year found that cortisone injections increased bone fragility in seniors. Each injection increased a patient’s risk for vertebral body fractures by a factor of 1.21.
The Ascent Chiropractic Advantage
At Ascent Chiropractic in Brookfield, we utilize a low-force, non-invasive, conservative approach to treatment of disc problems for our patients in Brookfield, Wauwatosa, New Berlin & surrounding areas. To make an appointment at Ascent Chiropractic, call 262-345-4166 or schedule an appointment with our online scheduling app.
Coombes, B, et al. Efficacy and safety of corticosteroid injections and other injections for management of tendinopathy: a systematic review of randomised controlled trials. The Lancet 2010; 376(9754):1751-1767.
Leeman, S, et al. Outcomes of acute and chronic patients with magnetic resonance imaging-confirmed symptomatic lumbar disc herniation receiving high-velocity, low-amplitude spinal manipulation therapy: a prospective observational cohort study with one year follow-up. Journal of Manipulative and Physiologic Therapeutics 2014; 37(3):155-163.