If you are one of the countless individuals who suffer from this injury, knowing how to treat a herniated disc effectively is essential. Learning natural pain relief methods can significantly improve your quality of life, leading to less physical pain, improved mood, increased levels of happiness, and more. There are many treatment techniques available, some of which you can use right at home.
Herniated Discs: Fast Facts
Experts state that approximately 1% to 3% of the adult population in the United States will suffer from a herniated disc in the lumbar spine. The injury is more common in men than women (at a ratio of approximately 2-to-1) and most often afflicts individuals between the ages of 30 and 59. However, it is important to note that a herniated disc can happen to anyone, of any gender, at any age. In fact, herniated discs are extremely common and there are more than 3 million new cases each year in the United States alone. The condition does require a medical diagnosis, and can usually be identified by self-reporting symptoms as well as imaging tests.
Unfortunately, a herniated disc can cause extreme pain. This pain can negatively impact your daily activities and exercise routine, the time you spend enjoying life with your loved ones, and even the quality of your sleep. The good news is that most herniated disc injuries can heal naturally–about 90% of people will see vast improvement or even complete healing after undergoing only natural treatments. Other times, spinal surgery is required to correct the injury.
What Causes a Herniated Disc?
Herniated discs are most often caused by disc degeneration in older individuals, or the repeated wear and tear on your spine over the years. This is why the injury becomes more common in those over the age of 30 and is seen much less frequently in younger patients. But what is a herniated disc?
Each vertebra on the human spine has a small, rubbery cushion in between it and the next bone. These bones, or vertebrae, stack to form your spinal cord, and the cushions in between each portion are known as discs. Each disc is comprised of a soft center, called the nucleus, and a harder exterior called the annulus.
Sometimes, wear and tear on your vertebrae and these cushions cause small rips or tears to form in the annulus of a disc. The nucleus, or the soft center of the tissue, then begins to pop out. This causes nerve irritation and aggravation and can lead to significant pain. While this injury can occur in any disc in your spine, they are most likely to present in the lumbar spine (the lower back).
Certain professions, demographics, and lifestyle choices may lead to an increased risk of experiencing a herniated disc. These include:
- Being overweight or obese
- Jobs that require physical labor, and repeated motions such as bending, lifting, pulling, etc.
- Genetic disposition
You may also hear a herniated disc referred to as a slipped disc, bulging disc, or a ruptured disc, though all terms refer to the same injury and resulting pain. Most of these injuries will heal from herniated disc treatment that does not involve surgical intervention.
Symptoms of a Herniated Disc
When considering how to heal a herniated disc naturally, much focus is given to the presenting symptoms. Often, people care most about easing the pain they are experiencing, and understandably so. Herniated discs can come with a variety of unpleasant symptoms that make daily life a challenge.
Symptoms of a herniated disc may include:
- Pain in the arm, back, foot, or leg(s). You may experience pain in the buttocks, thigh, and calf, or shooting pain in the arm that worsens as you cough or sneeze. People often describe this pain as "sharp" or "shooting."
- Muscle disfunction such as weakness, spasms, and overactive reflexes.
- Tingling and numbness, or a feeling similar to pins and needles or a burning sensation. This most commonly presents in the leg(s).
- Stiffness in the back, neck, and shoulders.
However, it is also important to recognize that herniated discs do not always present with noticeable symptoms. It is possible to damage the discs between your vertebrae without experiencing pain, only to identify the injury after an imaging test or doctor's evaluation.
How to Treat a Herniated Disc without Surgery
If you are experiencing pain, muscle dysfunction, numbness, stiffness, or any other symptoms of a herniated disc, visit a medical professional as soon as possible. An experienced chiropractor can perform an evaluation of your back and spine health, providing you with a prognosis and tentative treatment plan. Luckily, surgery is often used only as a last resort for treatment. There are many non-invasive, non-surgical, natural options for treatment, however, proper diagnosis is crucial.
When discussing how to heal a herniated disc naturally, a doctor or chiropractor is likely to suggest a combination of the following treatment methods.
There are many chiropractic treatment methods that can effectively address the pain a person experiences with a herniated disc and help the injury to heal holistically. These include techniques such as physical therapy and guided stretching, massage therapy and acupuncture, spine adjustments and manipulation, instrument-assisted therapy, and more.
Methods such as physical therapy can help your muscles to regain optimum function and capability, whereas guided stretching can relieve pain and tension. A chiropractor will likely provide you with a gentle stretching and exercise routine to complete at home between appointments for the best results.
Hot / Cold Therapy
Applying heat and cold to the affected area can help reduce symptoms and lessen pain significantly. A chiropractor may recommend using a hot water bottle, an electric heating pad, or taking long hot showers to aid in muscle relaxation and pain reduction. Alternately, they may also suggest that you employ the use of cold therapy, such as with ice packs or a professional treatment method like cryotherapy.
Additionally, a doctor or chiropractor may recommend that you rest while your herniated disc heals naturally. They may recommend that you continue with light exercise, such as routine walking, while steering clear of more intense routines such as HIIT or CrossFit.
A doctor may also recommend that you refrain from repeated motions that exacerbate the injury. These may include lifting heavy objects, frequently bending over, and more.
Adjust Your Diet
Since being overweight or obese can increase your chances of experiencing a herniated disc, a doctor may recommend that you adjust your diet and lifestyle to lose weight if necessary. Extra weight puts added stress on your muscular-skeletal system, increasing pain.
Or, you may not be overweight at all, but still be able to benefit from adjusting your diet. A doctor may recommend that you consume fewer foods that worsen inflammation, such as refined sugar, trans fats, alcohol, processed meat, and refined carbohydrates. Similarly, they may suggest that you add more foods that combat inflammation in the body, such as fresh berries, fatty fish, avocado, cherries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and more. This can help reduce painful symptoms while keeping your body in excellent physical condition.
It's also crucial to remain hydrated when learning how to heal a herniated disc naturally. Dehydration can increase your chances of experiencing a herniated disc, and your spine depends on proper water intake to function at its very best. Likewise, the cushiony discs between your vertebrae also need an adequate amount of water to work properly, so replenishing your supply when you are running low is an excellent idea.
One of the best ways to heal a herniated disc naturally is to pay attention to the position in which you sleep during your course of treatment. There are some sleep positions that are shown to help reduce and relieve pain while encouraging the injury to actively heal.
Always aim for a sleep position that relieves pressure from your spine. You can add a rolled-up pillow below or between your knees to help take the pressure and strain off your lower back if you are suffering from a herniated disc in the lumbar spine. Sleeping on your side with a pillow between your legs or knees can also help relieve this pressure. The precise position and pillow location that is best for your injury will depend on which discs in your spine are affected.
Sometimes, all the rest and gentle stretching in the world does not relieve the pain you're experiencing. If this is the case, and you are looking for how to treat a herniated disc without surgery, you may want to consider the intermittent use of over-the-counter medication. Ask your doctor or chiropractor which brand and type of pain reliever they recommend.
Often, when treating the pain associated with a herniated disc, doctors will recommend the use of Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs, or NSAIDs. These are pain relievers that also reduce inflammation and are often a first-line choice for back pain.
NSAID pain relievers include ibuprofen, naproxen, aspirin, and more.
Schedule an Appointment for Herniated Disc Treatment
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms and believe that you may have a herniated disc or other muscular-skeletal injury, contact ChiroCare of Florida today. We will book an appointment at your convenience for a medical evaluation to review your symptoms, medical history, and current concerns. Don't live in pain any longer, there is non-invasive treatment available to you.