Ontario Chiropractic, Ontario, California

Do You Have a “Slipped Disc” ? Well, Not Really . . .

By Robert J. Steiskal, D.C.

When it comes to the spine, the average person’s only interest is with PAIN. Statistics claim that each of us will be disabled with low back pain at least twice in our lives. We may, on average, only miss a couple days work, but many people find back pain to be a lifelong “challenge”. For too long, and too often, the general public has been coerced into thinking that surgery is the only answer for a diagnosis of “slipped disc”. But what is a “slipped disc”? Most people think it is like biting into a tuna sandwich and having all the tuna go out the backside.  Oops! That must be really bad! Then again, you may have been told that your diagnosis is a “bulged disc”, “protruding disc”, “herniated disc”, “degenerating disc”, “Fragmenting disc” or maybe “degenerative disc disease”. How confusing can these disc problems be? VERY CONFUSING!  I have listened to attorneys in court spend hours trying to get orthopedic surgeons to define these terms and agree on the difference between a “herniated disc” and a “frank herniation”. Most medical doctors no longer use the term “slipped disc”. It has been replaced with the various conditions listed above. All of these disc problems are associated with a disruption of the normal spinal function which, when left uncorrected, leads to a progressive degeneration of the disc and the accompanying “osteoarthritis” that is so often mentioned by doctors when they look at your x-rays.

The vertebrae of the spine may look like a stack of blocks but the spine is a solid structure separated and cushioned by highly specialized structures called “discs”. Each disc is comprised of two parts; the outer layers of extremely tough fibrous tissue that surrounds the nucleus and holds the vertebrae together; and the inner jello-like center that acts like a hydraulic system and is the main “shock absorber”. These discs or cushions allow flexibility of movement to the spine provide plenty of room for the spinal nerves to exit on both sides.  The spinal column is so inseparable that it acts like a solid column of bone.  It functions against gravity and enlists the support of the muscles for movement. Interlocking joints on the back portion of each vertebra limit and control that movement. The spine supports an eight to twelve pound head and protects the spinal cord, which is in the continuation of the brain. Without the discs, the vertebrae would grind bone against bone and there would be no flexibility between the head and hips.

Due to injury, misuse or degeneration, a disc may herniate (bulge) and press against a spinal nerve. A primary contributing factor to a bulging or protruding disc is what chiropractors call a “spinal subluxation”. The term “subluxation” refers to a change in position of one vertebra on another “spinal misalignment” resulting in trauma to the intervertebral disc. This trauma may be associated with pain and reduced mobility. In the majority of cases, the body resolves the swelling and absorbs (covers up) the deeper damage to the joint/disc mechanism. No noticeable signs of damage occur until years later and may first show up as a decrease in disc space (degeneration) and progress to osteoarthritic damage to the vertebrae. A subluxation is a serious condition to a chiropractor because he recognizes the consequences that follow a series of “insignificant” and “unrelated” episodes of back pain. Most of the conditions that I treat in my office can be traced back to injuries and falls that happened many years before, even as early as childhood, and were left untreated and, for the most part, unrecognized.

Chiropractic has been proven to be very successful in treating many cases of disc herniations without the need for surgery.  If you are experiencing any of the conditions described in this article and would like to discuss a particular condition with me, just call my office at (909) 986-3636. I will personally review any details with you either by phone or consultation in my office.