Doctors' Choice Physical Medicine

Minersville Patient Asks: Do I Have A Slipped Disc?

Minersville, Schuylkill County: “I was hanging curtains two days ago. I was on a ladder and reached and I got a pain in my back. I didn’t think anything of it at first and continued hanging the curtain. But the pain just got worse. Now I have pain all the time and I am standing crooked. Is this a slipped disc?”

Slipped Disc / Herniated Disc

Most likely yes, it is. Almost all reoccurring back or chronic back pain comes from the disc. The disc is like a shock absorber located between each vertebra in our spine extending from the tailbone to the upper neck.  When healthy, your discs truly do function as shock absorbers.  There are two parts to the disc – the inner part (called the nucleus) which is the liquid-like center and the outer part (the annulus), which is tough, laminated and rubber-like whose job is to hold the nucleus in the center of the disc.

The annulus has concentric rings, which look similar to the rings of an oak tree trunk, and the strength of these laminated rings is due to the fibers crisscrossing, creating a self-sealing, secure border for the nucleus center.  In spite of this great anatomical structure, our discs degenerate and can crack or tear allowing the more liquid-like nucleus to leak out of the annulus creating the classic “slipped disc” (technically referred to as a herniated or ruptured disc).

When the herniated disc presses into the nerve that goes down the leg, pain is felt along its course and can radiate all the way to the foot.  In your low back, there are five vertebrae and discs. Pair of nerves from each disc level goes into each leg and depending which disc ruptures, pain will follow a different course down the leg, which is why we ask you if you feel the pain more in the back or in the front of the leg.  When the disc tears prior to both disc herniation and leg pain, low back pain occurs because the nerve fibers that are normally only located in the outer third of the disc grow into the central portion of the disc, making it generate more pain.

Treatment for Slipped Disc

So now, for the important question, “…what can I do for it?”  When you visit our office, we will ask you about how you injured your back.  Often, the cause of a herniated disc can be the accumulation of multiple events over time.  It certainly can happen after one major event, like an accident. However, normal every day movements are usually the “straw that breaks the camel’s back” and not the sole cause.  Many researchers have reported it is rare for a healthy disc to herniate.  Rather, disc degeneration with tears already present sets up the situation where a bend plus a twist, “…finishes the job.”  The orthopedic and neurological examination will usually identify the level of herniation.

Chiropractic treatment often includes traction types of techniques, some form of spinal manipulation or mobilization, extension exercises, physical therapy modalities like electric stimulation, low, or ultrasound, and ice therapy.  Core/trunk strengthening and posture management are also commonly applied and, proper bending/lifting/pulling/pushing techniques are taught.

Dr. Novatnak

Dr. Novatnak is a National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Exercise Specialist and is also certified in MedX Exercise by the University of Florida.  Some slipped discs do require surgery if conservative cares fails to resolve the problem.  This is only about 1% of the cases.  In case you happen to fall into that 1% that need surgery Dr. Novatnak may make arrangements with the Laser Spine Institute where he is a Preferred Provider.

We realize that you have a choice in where you choose for your healthcare services.

If you, a friend, or family member requires care for low back pain, we sincerely appreciate the trust and confidence shown by choosing our services and look forward in serving you and your family presently and, in the future

This information is solely advisory, and should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice.   Any and all health care concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a health care professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.