Is Chiropractic Care Safe for Cervical and Lumbar Disc Herniation?

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Studies show that chiropractic care helps with degenerative disc disease, disc herniation, and similar illnesses.

by Kristy Donnelly, D.C.

You may have heard the terms degenerative disc disease, disc herniation, disc protrusion, slipped disc and ruptured disc before.  Not many people realize that they all refer to the same thing: a derangement of the intervertebral disc.  Pain caused by a cervical or lumbar disc injury is a common reason for many people to seek chiropractic care; however it is also a common reason for people to think that chiropractic treatment is dangerous for them.  So what does the research say?

Chiropractic Treatment Disc Herniation

In a study by the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 27 patients who had documented and symptomatic disc herniations in the cervical or lumbar spine were evaluated before and after a course of chiropractic care that included traction, flexion distraction, spinal manipulative therapy (adjustments), physiotherapy and rehabilitative exercises.  The results were measured with before and after MRI scans as well as subjective pain assessments.

Lumbar Disc Herniation Back PainEighty percent (80%) of patients reported their pain to have decreased to under two on a pain scale from 0 to 10, with 10 being the highest possible level of pain. Sixty-three percent (63%) of their MRI scans confirmed either a reduction in size or complete resorption of herniated disc material.  Seventy-eight percent (78%) of patients in the study who were previously out of work due to pain were able to return to their job.
This means that not only did the patients’ pain substantially diminish, the size of the disc herniation was decreasing, which meant that it was actually healing.

While everyone’s specific condition may be different, this study confirms that not only is chiropractic care safe for the treatment of cervical and lumbar disc injuries, it is beneficial for pain reduction and recovery for the majority of people seeking care.

Personally, I get excited to treat patients with disc herniations because I had one myself.  In my early 20s, I ended up with a disc bulge at L4-L5 and a herniation at L5-S1 with an immense amount of low back pain and pain radiating down my left leg.  It affected every part of my life, even bending over to tie my shoes or brush my teeth.  I will never forget wondering if I would have to get surgery or be in pain for the rest of my life.

Lumbar Disc HerniationThankfully, I was able to find a great chiropractor and my symptoms responded well to treatment.  A follow-up MRI examination showed that the disc bulge at L4-L5 had healed completely, and the herniation at L5-S1 was in the process of healing and was only a disc bulge instead of a large left sided herniation.  Because I vividly remember being the patient, I am able to connect with my patients and offer them not only hope for recovery, but also simple ways of modifying everyday activities in order to put less pressure on their discs and help them heal faster.

It is important to remember that not all situations are the same and some do in fact require more aggressive pain management treatment or surgical procedures.  Chiropractors are trained to recognize any red flags and make referrals to necessary specialists if any patients do not qualify for chiropractic care.  But as the study above shows, the vast majority of people with pain caused by a disc derangement respond well to chiropractic care and treatment helps them miss less time from work.

So give us a call, we would love to help you get your life back today!

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Dr. Kristy Donnelly

Author: Dr. Kristy Donnelly

Kristy Donnelly, D.C. is not just a Chiropractic Physician, but also a certified nutrition coach, and personal trainer, thus providing a well-rounded approach to patient care. She taught Anatomy at Florida State College in Jacksonville, and fitness classes in college.

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