Cervical Disc Herniation

low back pain relief with chiropractic care

Have you ever been told that you have or a “slipped disc” causing a pinched nerve in your neck? The medical term for this condition in a cervical disc herniation. It is important to understand the anatomy of a disc to understand how they can become damaged and how they can be treated with conservative chiropractic care and physical therapy. If you suffer from a cervical disc herniation in Gilbert AZ or Tempe AZ, continue to read to see how our team at Axis Spine and Sport can help.

What is a cervical disc?

An intervertebral disc is a fibrocartilaginous cushion that sits between most of the bones in your spine. It acts as a shock absorber and provides spacing between the bones to make room for nerves, arteries, and veins to exit the spine directly behind the disc. It is comprised of a hard outer ring of fibers and a gelatin-like inner layer. The disc is largely avascular, meaning it does not get very good blood supply directly from the circulatory system. This can give the disc problems when it comes to healing over time. The disc also lacks nociceptive fibers, or the fibers that detect damage and send pain to the brain. This means that many times when the disc is becoming slowly damaged, we don’t know that it’s happening! The disc relies on a good balance between spinal alignment, healthy stress from exercise, and proper movement to keep itself healthy for the long haul. Many factors can predict who will and will not get a disc injury including genetics, age, previous spine injuries, diet, exercise, sleep, and stress!

How does a cervical disc get injured?

So how do injuries to the disc happen? Well, once you account for the risk factors for a disc injury there are a few main variables that contribute to a disc injury. Many disc injuries are felt in an instant from things such as a weightlifting injury or whiplash from a car accident. A quick and sudden force that causes tearing of the outer layer of the disc causes the inner layer of the disc to protrude through the outer fibrous layer, resulting in herniation. The disc does have some small nociceptive fibers in the very outer layer, thus we may feel pain once this outer layer becomes torn. Often, this pain is mild compared to the subsequent pain we feel due to the body’s immune system producing an inflammatory response. Inflammation is a positive reaction that your body produces to start the healing process, however part of that process includes chemicals that, once sensed by the body, produce pain. As the inflammatory response dampens, our body will work to clean up and heal the herniation and our pain will often subside.

The disc can also become injured over time through slow wearing of the fibers. This is known as degenerative disc disease. Degenerative disc disease occurs over a long period of time and occurs due to a variety of factors. It is not always painful, however many times leads to stiffness and limited range of motion. As the outer disc fibers are weakened, this can predispose the disc to herniation. The same process occurs as with an acute traumatic herniation.

When to seek help for a cervical disc herniation

When a cervical disc becomes herniated the surrounding nerve tissue can produce a painful response but can also experience a limitation in function. You may feel pain in the neck but may also experience pain radiating down one or both arms as far down as your fingers. This pain may also be accompanied by numbness or a tingling sensation. When nerves lose function, it is a sign to seek help. The longer a nerve goes with a functional loss, the more difficult it is to rehabilitate and can lead to permanent damage and neurological dysfunction.

How can chiropractic care help a cervical disc herniation?

Now that you understand some of the basics of how a disc can become injured, there are a few important factors to cover. First, this injury will often heal on its own with time. It is very common and one of the most common reasons people will visit their chiropractor. When addressing this injury, the best course of care will change along the timeline of the recovery process. In the early phases of a disc herniation, reducing pain and inflammation are the critical points of chiropractic care. As inflammation subsides, safely returning to regular activities including exercise are encouraged as soon as possible. Proper lifting form, activity modification, and specific exercise therapies can help your body return to normal activities without the risk of reinjury to the disc. The final phase of healing the disc is strengthening the tissues to prevent further injury. Research has shown more than 50% of people with acute pain will go on to become chronic neck pain sufferers according to the American Chiropractic Association. Regular chiropractic care has been shown to reduce the number of episodes as well as the severity of painful episodes experienced throughout the year.

At Axis Spine and Sport Gilbert AZ or Tempe AZ, we see patients with cervical disc herniations every day who get great results without using drugs or surgery. We have over 100 online reviews from patients who have had great results at our office and rate us as the best chiropractor in Arizona. The first step if you believe you have experienced a cervical disc herniation or slipped disc is to give our office a call and set up a consultation to have our chiropractors evaluate your spine. Call us today to see if we can help you get out of pain and back to living a healthy life!