The spine is a very strong, yet delicate, part of the body. The spinal column is constantly moving and under pressure. Stress such as aging, disease, repetitive movements, and injuries can all affect the spinal column and your overall health.
The spinal discs are perfectly sized cushions between the spinal bones (vertebrae) that allow for smooth movement. The disc helps to keep the bones from touching and act like shock absorbers for the spinal cord. Each disc has two parts: a soft, gelatinous inner part and a tough outer ring.
A protrusion happens from compression, or pressure, that cause the disc to stretch too far. Thus the inner, soft part of the disc to be displaced from its normal position.
A protrusion is not always accompanied by symptoms. In fact, some protrusions go unnoticed. However, in the majority of cases, disc protrusion will usually have one or more of the following (according to the nerve root involved):
- Consistent back or neck pain
- Numbness and tingling sensation in the body
- Muscle weakness
There are many factors that can lead to a protruding disc. Some issues are age-related while some are the results of lifestyle choices. Trauma and genetics can also lead to a protruding disc.
- Poor posture
- Unhealthy diet
- Weight gain
- Insufficient exercise
- Injuries such as falls, athletic injuries and accidents
How is it diagnosed?
Firstly, a history and physical exam will be performed by your doctor. The doctor will look for the source of your pain and discomfort. Then, if a protrusion is suspected, images will be taken (most commonly an MRI). An Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) provides a more detailed assessment of the spine including nerves, disc alignment, height and hydration.
Treatments for a protrusion range from conservative to surgical. The treatment usually depends on the level of pain you are experiencing and how damaged the disc is.
One of the best conservative treatments for a protrusion is chiropractic care. Chiropractic is a non-invasive and natural way to help to realign the spine so there is less pressure on the nerve. This helps to reduce the pain and helps you to quickly recover from a protrusion.
Physical therapy may also help to relieve pain from a protrusion. Through specific exercises and stretches, a physical therapist can assist in helping to improve range of motion, strength and flexibility.
Anti-inflammation medication and pain-killers will also help to relieve the pain. However, they do not treat the cause of the problem. If the pain and inflammation returns after the medicine wears off, do not be surprised. It is recommended to always consult your medical doctor before taking any medication.
Fusion surgeries, specialized hardware to reinforce stability, and artificial disc replacements are also options if you are considering this route.
Movement is an important part of life. Try to remain active through gentle stretches, deep breathing exercises, and low-impact activities such as walking. Most people can feel relief from pain with simple stretches and exercises. While it may be tempting to refrain from all physical activity while your disc is inflamed, it can actually lead to muscle weakness and joint stiffness.
During the periods when the protrusion is not inflamed, it is recommended to exercises on a regular basis. This will help to keep your body strong and help to prevent further issues. Also, exercising helps to maintaining good posture which in turn helps to reduces the pressure on your spine and discs.
High levels of inflammation weaken your bones, muscles and joints. While inflammation alone might not cause a disc protrusion, it can exacerbate painful symptoms and make spinal injuries harder to recover from.
One of the best ways to control inflammation is to eat a nutrient-dense diet filled with healing foods while lowering your intake of things like sugar, processed meats, alcohol, coffee and refined grain products (gluten).
The best anti-inflammatory foods that combat pain include green vegetables, healthy fats (including olive oil), lean proteins (eggs, grass-fed meat, fish) and foods containing probiotics.
Taking supplements on a regular basis can help to repair the damaged tissues in your body and speed up the recovery process.
- Vitamin C: one of the most important nutritional supplements in repairing discs. Vitamin C is crucial in the formation on collagen, the substance that binds tissues together.
- Omega-3: protect nerve function, reduce inflammation and relieve nerve pain
- Tumeric: a powerful anti-inflammatory spice that is useful in relieving numbness, tingling and pain in the hands or feet.
- Zinc: increases immunity and speeds up the healing process while also helping with muscle growth and repair
- Vitamin B Complex: the full spectrum of vitamin b helps to maintain healthy nerves. B1, B3, B6 and B12 have been shown to reduce neurogenic pain. Especially B12 as it helps to produce myelin, the substance that surrounds nerve cells.
During period of inflammation, it is suggested to avoid the following:
- Lifting heavy objects
- Positions that exaggerate the pain
- Sitting for long periods; stretch and walk periodically
- Stressful activities including overtraining at the gym
- Smoking/recreational drugs
For more information, contact Dr. Trystanna Williams at Studio Chiropratico Williams.