The majority of our population here in Australia will experience low back pain at some point in their lives. Many that we see in our office have automatically assumed they have a “slipped disc pinching the nerve.” But is this REALLY what’s happening?

Is your disc causing your back pain?

Let’s look at the two most common ways a disc will trigger back pain.

1) Internal disc derangement.

This is the most common disc related back pain accounting for 26-42% of all low back pain. The pain comes from “cracks” in the outer layer of the disc, the annulus fibrosis. This outer layer has lots of nerve endings and sometimes certain movements will push the fluid from the middle of the disc (the nucleus pulposus) into those cracks causing pain. The person experiencing pain from IDD will typically stand crooked as their body subconsciously attempts to take pressure off of the injury. The pain will also tend to be focused mainly in the lower back area and not refer down the legs.
disc and pain

How does it happen?

It is thought that these “cracks” in the outer layer of the disc are formed by uneven wear (from spinal misalignment), acute trauma, or repetitive movements like sitting or bending.

How can chiropractic help?

The best thing you can do when a disc is very acute is rest, returning to gentle movement the moment pain allows. Gentle walking will allow the disc to get rid of toxins and bring in healing nutrients. Chiropractors do have several low force techniques that can help reduce inflammation and speed healing. Once the acute phase and severe symptoms have subsided it is then time for your chiropractor to help optimize movement of the spine through active and passive care to minimize the chance of acute injury reoccurring.
Low back pain

2) Herniated or bulging disc.

Many people believe this is the cause of their back pain, however, a true herniated disc putting pressure on a nerve only affects 2% of the population. In fact, many people have slight disc herniations yet they never experience back pain. A herniation results when the fluid on the inside of the disc pushes the outer layers, causing a bulge. This bulge will typically go into the space used by the nerves exiting the spinal cord, thereby reducing the space available for the nerve. If that nerve has pressure put on it, either from the disc itself or from inflammation, pain can be the result. The person experiencing pain from a herniated disc will also stand crooked but will have pain shooting all the way down the leg.
Low back pain from disc herniation
Watch this video for a great visual

How does it happen?

Bulges and hernations are thought to occur from acute trauma or repetitive stress on the disc.

How can chiropractic help?

Again, the best thing to do with an acute disc is rest, returning to gentle movement at the soonest possible time. If the pain becomes too severe, you lose bowel/bladder control, or you begin to get numbness on the inside of both thighs, this is a medical emergency and you should go straight to the emergency room. Once the acute symptoms have eased, it is then time to access spinal movement and determine if the original cause of the herniation can be corrected.

Low back pain and herniations

What to do next?

If you think you may be suffering from disc related pain always check with your primary healthcare professional. A thorough exam combined with a CT scan or MRI can tell you exactly what is happening.

Don’t despair!

Disc pain can be very frustrating for both patient and practitioner but it doesn’t have to be a life sentence to pain. Always try least invasive therapies like chiropractic or physio BEFORE considering surgery. You can read here about how the famous Andrew Lloyd Webber actually contemplated suicide before finding relief from his back pain through chiropractic.

If you live in or around the Brisbane or Ipswich areas and you think one of our friendly knowledgeable chiropractors can help please make an appointment at (07) 3812 7118.

Find out if your low back pain is from your discs!

Dr. Joe Rivers Ipswich Chiropractor

Dr. Joe Rivers