Herniated discs can be treated non-surgically with chiropractic care. How does a chiropractor treat a slipped disc, though? But, before moving on to that, we must quickly examine what a herniated disc is.

a chiropractor conversing with a patient

A chiropractor discusses with a patient whose back discomfort might be brought on by a bulging or herniated disc the findings of a spinal x-ray.

A “Slipped” Disc: What Is It? The same as a herniated disc, right?

There is an intervertebral disc between each vertebra of the spine, except the atlas (C1) and axis (C2), the first two vertebrae in the neck. Discs offer flexibility and function as a shock absorber and a shock distributor.

Think about jumping up and down. Without these discs’ support and cushioning, what would happen to the spine’s stack of bony vertebrae? Now, alternately arch and arch your back. Once more, picture the movement of the discs between the vertebrae. Your spine couldn’t work without these discs.

Although the term “slipped disc” has become common to describe bulging, ruptured, or herniated discs, intervertebral discs don’t actually “slide.” Therefore, we’ll use the more appropriate word, herniated discs, throughout this text because it’s more accurate.

The nucleus pulposus and the solid outer layer (the annulus fibrosus) make up your discs (which contain a soft, gelatin-like centre). (See below, Figure 1.) The material inside the disc may start to push out if the disc’s outer layer develops cracks. A disc herniation can result from a variety of causes.

For instance, bad posture or being overweight may put too much stress on the disc. A herniated disc may develop due to several reasons or a physical accident.

intervertebral disc with herniation in an overhead view

Can Sneezing Cause Herniated Discs?

For many people with back pain brought on by a condition that causes back pain (such as a herniated disc), the issue begins tiny and then grows over time until you start to experience symptoms, such as back ache. See Figure 2 for an illustration of the different stages of disc degeneration.

Let’s take the scenario when you sneeze and immediately experience a severe backache. The pain then escalates to cause sciatica or leg pain. Your sneeze may have accelerated an underlying herniated disc that you already have. So, the answer is yes: sneezing (or coughing) can herniate a disc in the spine.

Herniated Discs and Chiropractic Care

A chiropractor can treat back pain and other herniated disc signs and symptoms. Your chiropractor will review your medical history, conduct a physical examination, and run orthopaedic and neurological tests during your first visit.

There are various things your chiropractor will check for. Orthopaedic and neurological examinations can assist your chiropractor in providing answers to these crucial questions.

Do the reflexes still work? Specifically, do your nerves properly transmit signals? (In the traditional reflex test, your leg will spring up when the doctor taps your knee with a little hammer.))

Are there any indications of muscle atrophy or a reduction of muscle strength?

Exists a loss of sensation along a nerve’s course?

In addition to closely examining your posture, the chiropractor may request an X-ray or an MRI to aid in diagnosing.

Doctors of chiropractic examine the entire spine. Your chiropractor will check other areas of your body, such as your neck, even if you only experience lower back pain. Remember: What happens in one section of your spine can affect other parts of your spine and/or body. They want to assess how well your spine is functioning overall.

After looking through this information, your chiropractor can decide if you have an intervertebral disc injury. The therapies your chiropractor will employ to treat your symptoms will depend on the type of disc injury you have.

Specific chiropractic care techniques are not appropriate for certain patients. For instance, if you have cauda equina syndrome, which causes you to lose control of your bowel or bladder and causes intervertebral disc damage, you should seek emergency medical attention because your chiropractor cannot treat this illness.

Additionally, your chiropractor will recommend you to a spine surgeon if they discover that you have a progressive loss of strength, feeling, reflexes, and other uncommon neurological findings.

However, a herniated disc is the cause of most intervertebral disc injuries. Your chiropractor can provide several treatment options for your pain and other symptoms.

Your chiropractor will create a treatment strategy for your herniated disc that may include spinal manipulation, sometimes referred to as adjustments, and other chiropractic procedures to assist relieve your herniated disc symptoms. This will be a personalised treatment plan but might also involve therapeutic exercises and manual therapy.

Your pain, degree of exercise, general health, and what your chiropractor deems to be the best all play a role in the specifics of your treatment plan. Ask questions about the recommended chiropractic treatments and their rationale, just as you would with other medical care. Make sure you know what will happen and how it might help you feel better. For the majority of patients, chiropractic care is secure and efficient.

Here are a few illustrations of chiropractic procedures for herniated discs.

The technique of Flexion-Distraction for Herniated Discs

The flexion-distraction technique is a typical chiropractic treatment that can be used to aid with herniated disc problems.

With flexion-distraction, the spine is gently “distracted” or stretched using a specific table. By adopting a pumping pattern, the chiropractor can then isolate the injured area while only gently “flexing” the spine.

This procedure normally doesn’t cause any pain. Instead, the nucleus pulposus, the centre of the intervertebral disc, can take up its central place in the disc by being gently pumped to the painful location using the flexion-distraction approach. Additionally, flexion-distraction might increase the disc height.

With the disc moved away from the nerve, the inflammation of the nerve root and eventually any pain and inflammation that may be felt in the leg may be reduced (if there is any related to your herniated disc).

You typically need a succession of therapies for flexion-distraction, along with additional ultrasound, muscle stimulation, physiotherapy, nutrition, and at-home remedies (your chiropractor will let you know what those are). Your treatment plan will gradually include instructions for specific activities and diet. Throughout your course of treatment, your chiropractor will keep an eye on you.

Manipulation While Sedated (MUA)

For some spinal disorders, manipulation under anaesthesia, or MUA, is suitable chiropractic treatment. A hospital or ambulatory care facility does MUA. The anaesthesia is called twilight sleep, which denotes a brief (6-minute) period of sleep and sedation. The chiropractor stretches and manipulates the treatment region. At the same time, the patient is unconscious, and her body is in a calm state. This procedure is typically carried out throughout 1 to 3 sessions, spaced 2 to 4 weeks apart.

Pelvic Blocking Methods for Disc Herniations

Pelvic blocking techniques are another method used by chiropractors to treat herniated disc symptoms.

Treatments for the pelvic blockage may involve placing cushioned wedges beneath each side of the pelvis. You could also use some gentle exercises. These will enable your disc to be drawn away from the nerve it may be pushing on due to modifications in mechanics.

erroneous beliefs about chiropractic

It’s a myth that chiropractors use harsh adjustments to “pop a disc back in place.” Instead, gas released under pressure inside a joint causes the “pop” sound. It sounds a lot like the pop of a Coke can being opened.

Another myth is that chiropractic cares only a few quick adjustments to “repair” your disc. As previously mentioned, chiropractors repair ruptured discs instead of employing delicate, low-force methods.

As a result,

Suppose your symptoms do not go away after trying chiropractic care. In that case, your chiropractor may suggest you co-manage your condition with a pain management specialist and/or a spine surgeon. Your chiropractor will create a treatment plan for your herniated disc.