WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF DEGENERATIVE DISC DISORDER (BULGING AND HERNIATED DISCS)?
Maintaining a good blood supply is very important to any tissue within the body. Blood brings oxygen and nutrients, while removing waste materials to encourage growth and healing. Those tissues that have a rich blood supply like the spinal vertebra (bones) heal very quickly. If more stress is placed on the spine due to injury, age, obesity or poor posture this can limit the blood supply to the spinal discs and contribute to disc degeneration. The disc will begin to lose their height and create a bulge that putts more stress on the annular fibers. A disc bulge can eventually start to press on a spinal nerves or spinal cord causing pain, numbness or tingling. This can result in back pain, neck pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, sciatica and general numbness and tingling in the arms or legs. As this process continues, the reduced blood supply and the stress on the annular fibers can lead to a herniated disc. When the disc herniates (ruptures) the gel-like material begins to leak out and it can no longer act as a shock absorber for the spine and nerves. At this stage, the disc rapidly degenerate and cause arthritic changes like bone spurs and roughened joint surfaces. This usually results in a severe limitation in spinal range of motion and may eventually result in a full fusion of the vertebra.
How is Degenerative Disc Disorder (Bulging and Herniated discs) Diagnosed?
A detailed history is a crucial first step in the diagnostic process. It is important to learn about any past injuries or traumas, the nature of the problem as it presents for you, how long you have been suffering and any other complicating factors.
In order to properly diagnose Degenerative Disc Disorder, a detailed exam by our medical provider or chiropractor is needed. During the evaluation, they will look at your posture, range of motion, and muscular imbalances. Supporting muscles of the spine will be evaluated for tightness, swelling, tenderness and trigger points. Orthopedic, neurological and reflex testing will also be performed to evaluate the spinal joints, nerves and supportive muscles.
Your medical provider or chiropractor may order imaging to further evaluate the alignment of the spine, spinal disc height and any signs of arthritis and degenerative changes.
- X-Ray – Used to visualize bone, an X-Ray may be ordered to rule out fractures, loss of joint spacing, misalignment of vertebra and joints, and evaluate the stage of arthritic changes present.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – Using a large magnet and radio waves, an MRI can help to better evaluate the soft tissue of the spine, like muscles, nerves and spinal discs.
- Computerized Tomography (CT) – A CT Scan is another way to evaluate soft tissue for those who can’t have an MRI. Computers and a rotating x-ray machine are used to take cross-sectional (slices) images of the body.
If identified early enough we can slow down and reverse the degenerative process using a combination of Chiropractic Manipulation Spinal Decompression and Rehab Exercises.