Disc bulges and herniations (protrusions) are quite common in our population. People from adolescence through adulthood are susceptible to having them. We have discs up and down our entire spine, meaning in the cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and sacral regions. Discs help to allow for motion and proper function of our spine. Picture the disc as a jelly filled donut. The inner portion of a disc contains the jelly and the outer layers the donut itself. The jelly is contained inside the donut, and that is called the nucleus propolsis and the outer layers are known as the annular fibers and their job is to protect the center. The annular fibers are much like your meniscus of your knee. Over time and due to certain traumas, both macro (big) and micro (small), the jelly begins to break through the annular fibers of the outer layers. Sooner or later the jelly gets close to the other edges of the donut to creating a ‘bulge’ of the annular fibers. This is what is commonly considered to be a disc bulge. If a bulge is left untreated, it will most often lead to the jelly breaking through the last few layers and leaking out and may go into the spinal canal. This is what we call a herniation. If the herniation breaks off, this is called a prolapsed disc.
Disc bulges and herniations are many times successfully treated through conservative measures. Unfortunately, disc prolapses/non-sequestered fragments (the broken off pieces) can often times put pressure directly on the spinal cord, and since there is nothing binding them to the rest of the disc, surgery is many times the only option. Luckily, disc prolapses are the end-stage of disc degeneration and a lot can be done prior to getting to this horrible condition.
Tingling (paresthesia, or reduction of sensation) and numbing (anesthesia, or loss of sensation) are common effects of disc bulges and herniations. This is because the disc can directly put pressure on the spinal cord or the nerve roots where they exit from the spine. If the pressure is not reduced, permanent nerve damage can result. There are cases, however, where nerve entrapment distal to the spine can cause a similar condition. It is important that your chiropractor be able to distinguish what your problem is and where it is coming from! In addition to standard chiropractic treatments, Dr. Vanina utilizes specialized traction to help decrease the pressure caused by disc bulges and herniations. Its focus is to create negative disc pressure to help reduce bulges and/or herniations. It is a technique that is specific for each individual disc pathology. It has medical research to back it up! Simply put, there are no other conservative techniques available that offer the scientific backing for the treatment of disc pathology.
In the case of burning pain, or radicular pain, the cause is usually irritation of a nerve sheath. Irritation refers to toxin release from damaged discs, muscles, ligaments, joints, etc. that create an inflammatory process that engulfs the nerve. This inflammatory process creates pain and dysfunction. On some occasions, a MRI is needed to help accurately assess the state of the disc and help specialize the treatment techniques needed.