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Chiropractic Care for Herniated Discs

Published Date: 
October 5, 2022
A man is in a lot of pain and cannot stand up straight because of a herniated disc.

Herniated discs are common among people who have been involved in accidents or sports injuries. Learn about chiropractic care for herniated discs and how it relieves pain.

How Chiropractic Care Can Help with a Herniated Disc

Your spine’s anatomical structure is perfectly engineered to support your normal body weight and absorb shock. Intervertebral discs are between the vertebrae that absorb stress and cushion the vertebrae against shock. Increased pressure on the discs may herniate them.

Herniated discs usually cause pain in the lumbar region or sciatica. However, chiropractic care ameliorates the symptoms of herniated discs. Get to know how you can relieve the painful symptoms of herniated discs with chiropractic care.

What Is a Herniated Disc?

A herniated disc is an intervertebral disc whose jelly-like nucleus pushes into the spinal canal through a crack in the disc's outer ring. Herniated disc symptoms usually wear off with time, even without medical intervention. However, it may cause sciatica, neck pain, or tingling and weakness in some cases. Medics usually advise seeking non-pharmacological action before trying surgery for herniated discs. 

Bulging Disc Vs. Herniated Disc: What's the Difference? 

You have probably heard of both herniated and bulging discs and used the terms interchangeably. Each of the complications affects your spine, so the two are often confused. But they are not the same.

A herniated disc occurs when there's trauma to the spine, causing the jelly-like substance in the disc to push against the outer ring. A bulging disc is when the jelly-like nucleus leaks into the spinal canal through a crack in the outer casing. A herniated disc can be compared to a tire blowout while a bulging disc is like a flat tire. 

Bulging discs are the most common disc complications; however, their symptoms take time to manifest, unlike herniated disc symptoms that you will notice from the onset. The spectrum of treatment for both conditions also varies depending on which complication you have.

A chiropractor is treating a man for herniated disc pain.

Symptoms of Disc Protrusion or Herniation

Disc herniation and protrusion have similar symptoms. However, as previously stated, it may take longer for full clinical expression of a protruding disc. Disc herniation or protrusion can occur at any part of your spine. Here are the symptoms to watch out for in specific regions.

Herniated Disc in Neck Symptoms

  • Pain in the neck, shoulders, or arms
  • Numbness or tingling sensation

Herniated disc pain may shoot down your arm, especially if you sneeze. In most cases the pain is sharp, but it may be dull or aching.

Herniated Disc in Back Symptoms

  • Sciatica
  • Pain in the buttocks
  • Low back pain
  • Weakness in the leg

Why Does it Happen?

Disc herniation can occur after an accident, sports injury, improper lifting of heavy objects, degenerative disease, or sudden spine twisting.

Diagnosing a Disc Problem

The doctor will perform a physical examination that incorporates a neurological examination and a straight leg test during the initial visit. The purpose of the physical exam is to determine whether there's a loss of sensation or pain in specific regions of the spinal column.

Imaging tests such as MRI scans provide clear images of the discs to assess if they are correctly aligned. The imaging test and the physical exams enable the chiropractor to diagnose you with a disc problem and tailor a treatment plan.

Inactivity and Disc Herniations and Problems

A sedentary lifestyle adds too much pressure on the discs, which can cause them to herniate. Sitting for too long, especially when slouching forward, increases the risk of disc herniation. Also, an inactive lifestyle means you will most likely develop obesity which causes more spinal problems, including disc herniation.

A chiropractor is treating a man for a herniated disc.

Chiropractic Adjustments for Herniated Discs

Chiropractic care for herniated discs involves spinal adjustments to realign your spine. The chiropractor will tailor a herniated disc treatment plan for you that leverages the different spinal adjustments depending on the herniated disc's location in the spine. Generally, the adjustment's thrust and velocity increase as you approach the lower spine.

The blend of spinal adjustments and adjunctive therapies improves the spinal fluid flow, reducing inflammation and pain in the lower back and neck and alleviating sciatica symptoms. A 2015 study showed that 92% of the cohorts had less pain after chiropractic treatment. The major merit of chiropractic care for herniated discs is that it ameliorates other problems such as osteoarthritis, scoliosis, headaches, and more!

You can search for a certified chiropractor through the Find a Doctor tool on the American Association of Chiropractors website. Accurate diagnosis is imperative to seeking effective treatment. Ensure you visit only certified chiropractors for treatment.

The Risks of Other Methods for Managing Pain

In some cases, you may need pharmacological and more invasive treatments such as lumbar decompression or microdiscectomy to manage pain from a herniated disc. Some risks associated with surgery include:

  • Nerve damage
  • Recurrent disc herniation
  • Stiffness, especially after spinal fusion surgery
  • Infection
  • Bleeding

Qualified surgeons leverage state-of-the-art technology and safer approaches to surgery that mitigate the risks. But it’s imperative that you follow the doctor’s discharge instructions to avoid further complications.


Herniated discs may not cause immediate discomfort. However, you may notice neck pain or low back pain that shoots down your legs over time. Chiropractic care for herniated discs offers pain relief without invasive treatments and without popping pain-relieving medication. Contact a certified chiropractor to set up your visit for herniated discs and everything spine-related.

Dr. Darren Faherty D.C.

In 2004, Dr. Darren Faherty graduated with a Bachelors of Science degree in Biology from UWEC - University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. Dr. Darren continued education at the highly esteemed University of Western States (formerly Western States Chiropractic College) where he obtained his chiropractic degree in 2007. He has been helping people recover from injuries and return to their normal lifestyles ever since.

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