Slipped disc, herniated disc, and bulging disc are all terms for more or less the same issue. While most people use the terms in the order bulging disc, then slipped disc, then herniated disc there is no real measurement difference. For this reason if you have been told that you have a “bulging disc” it is possible that you have a serious problem just as if you have a “herniated disc”.
Herniated discs are a significant problem. They can obviously create a great deal of pain, like sciatica; however, they can cause other substantial problems. If you have a herniated disc or even a “bulging disc” in your low back you can lose the ability to walk normally. Our chiropractors have had patients that report that they feel clumsier and trip over stairs or their own feet.
The herniation can put pressure on nerves that help the gut to function. The pressure on these nerves can cause loose stools, constipation, bloating and stomach pain. Our chiropractors have even seen herniated discs decrease sexual function with symptoms like erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation issues, loss of sensation and pain with intercourse.
Treating herniated discs is problematic due to the complexity of the situation and often times severity of the pain associated with these issues. The other major factor to remember when someone has a herniated disc is that the spine is now forever structurally damaged. Even with the best treatment, the spine will not ever function the way it did before the herniation. With that said, in most cases, pain can be eliminated and normal life can be resumed. The reason it is important to recognize that the structure has now been changed is that the need for exercise and maintenance on the spine and the muscles of the spine are going to be even more critical. This is best illustrated by the actual reason, and the only reason, that a disc will herniate or bulge is that the spine is weak.
When the spine, which consists of the muscles around the bones, the bones themselves, the ligaments that attach to the bones as well as the tendons that make up the spine fail as a group and thus the disc herniates. If we understand that the failure was due to lack of function, for example, the joints were not moving properly or the muscles were weak then it is easy to properly fix the issue long-term, which can only be done with chiropractic and exercise. There are many options that are used to treat the problems, symptoms, most often associated with herniated discs the most common are: oral steroids, steroid injections, rhizotomy, chiropractic, spinal decompression, discectomy surgery, laminectomy surgery, and fusion surgery.
Oral steroids and steroid injections strive to serve the same purpose of decreasing pain by decreasing inflammation. The major difference in the two is how they are delivered. Any medication that you take orally, by mouth, has to go through the stomach, intestines, and then into the blood where it hits the liver, kidney, heart, brain and all other tissues and organs until it eventually also hits the area that you want to help. While this process has many side effects it is the least invasive medical remedy and can help.
Steroid injections come in a variety of fashions. The most common for herniated discs is a facet injection where the medication is deposited directly into the area of inflammation and muscular spasm. This delivery system is the most invasive as you often times need to be sedated for it however, it is the most effective. This method also spares the organs that are damaged by the oral pathway of pills.
All surgeries are going to require specific changes and that makes them specific to the individual surgeon and the individual patient, however, all will require cutting of the spine and or spinal complex.
are performed where the primary goal is to destroy the nerve that is causing pain or problems. This technique is most often used for spastic issues like in spastic diplegia or in spastic cerebral palsy, however, is also used for pain.
is where 2 or more discs are completely removed and the bones are either bolted together or they are glued together. If the bones are “glued together” bone chips and bone cement is used to grow the 2 bones together.
is where the disc itself is cut off and removed to allow more room for the nerve or spinal cord.
is a technique that allows more room for nerves to pass off the spinal cord and out into the body by way of cutting a piece of the bone off of the spinal vertebrae, the lamina and leaving a larger hole for the nerve. This process is often times referred to as “surgical decompression.”