Disc Injuries

Lumbar Disc Injury

Disc Injury?

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Do I have a disc injury?

Back pain

It can start out innocent enough; a tweak here, a pinch there but nothing serious enough to make you think twice. Those are normal aches and pains right? So we keep plugging along until the next painful episode, which may be weeks or months later and then, the next thing you know, the pain is always there.

Sound familiar? This is a pretty typical course for back pain. An initial injury or repetitive action can set off this cycle of progressively worsening back pain until something finally gives out – either your pain tolerance or your back.

Why does it matter? Disc irritation leads to bulging then herniation which is potentially more serious and more likely to affect you in the long term. Herniation can lead to leg pain, weakness, tingling and/or numbness if it is bad enough to affect the nearby nerve root.

Prevent Back Surgery! Disc injuries are the most common condition that lead to surgical intervention. My goal is to help you recognize your injury before surgery is the only viable option.

What to watch for:

You have a much better prognosis the sooner your injury is treated. Chronic conditions are harder to overcome because your body has had time to develop compensations, i.e. it has learned alternative ways of functioning to work around the injury. Treating the injury before our body learns a new “normal,” generally leads to quicker recoveries and less rehabilitation.


  • Pain is worse:
    • First thing in the morning,
    • After periods of sitting/standing,
  • Coughing, sneezing or even straining with a bowel movement may increase your symptoms.
  • It’s usually difficult to get up from a laying or seated position.
  • Placing your hands on your thighs to help push yourself upright is another classic sign.
  • Positions of relief (will vary based on injury location):
    • Curling up into the fetal position or bringing knees to chest
    • Arching the back into extension or back bending
    • Whether or not you are experiencing any pain, if you experience any of these symptoms, go to the emergency room immediately: Lack of bowel or bladder control with any injury, numbness or lack of feeling in the groin, pelvic floor and inner thighs (saddle anesthesia) as these could be signs of (Cauda Equina Syndrome), a more serious condition.

Causes of Disc Injuries:

The most common cause of disc injuries is lifting heavy objects and/or twisting the spine while under a heavy load . With hard work our back muscles fatigue and we lose stability around the spine. When we keep pushing them we are putting ourselves at a greater risk for injury. Onset of back pain can be immediate or come on slowly, sometimes showing up the next morning.

“But wait!” you say, that doesn’t sound like me at all. “Yeah, I may have had a couple episodes over the last year but I didn’t do any heavy lifting. I just bent over to (fill in the blank: tie my shoe, pick up a pencil, leaned over the sink/hood of the car etc.).” If you’re in this boat, you’ve probably been teetering between just enough core stability and your next episode for a while. That last action finally pushed you over the top. Long periods of instability in the lower back or pelvis can also lead to disc injuries.

How Discs work – explaining the symptoms:

A normal disc is like a sponge. It expands and contracts with movement (a process called imbibition) thus creating a pumping mechanism. Because the disc doesn’t have much blood flow to it, it uses this pumping motion to draw in surrounding fluid that is loaded with nutrients and oxygen to be used by the cells for repair and maintenance. It also pumps out waste products from the cell.

When the disc is injured, it swells up causing more pain and pressure through the area. This is generally why disc injuries present the way they do. No motion allows the disc to become more inflamed which is typically why getting out of bed in the morning is so rough. Once you are moving, things ease up as the inflammation is pumped out of the area.

In response to the pain, your body will recruit nearby muscles in an attempt to stabilize the injury, limiting motion in that area, and thus hopefully limiting the pain. When this happens, however, we can get stuck in a viscous cycle: lack of normal motion due to joint dysfunction and muscle spasms limits the natural sponging/pumping action of the disc. This, in turn, decreases the body’s ability to bring in the materials needed to repair the disc, the pain continues and in-turn the joint dysfunction and muscle spasms.

The Fix is in!

At Midtown Chiropractic, we use therapies that mimic the normal function of the disc. Remember that pumping action we talked about? By gently stretching your spine in specific places, we can help to clear out inflammation and bring in new nutrients and oxygen needed for repair. We have a specific protocol to determine not only which disc needs to be stretched, but how (which direction) to stretch that disc to allow for the most beneficial pumping action. This pumping allows the chiropractic adjustment to be much more successful especially in tough cases. This treatment protocol is easier on the patient and the doc, a win-win for everyone! Chiropractic care has a successful, well-documented, track record of success in helping treat disc conditions.

The Take Away:

If you think you might have an injured disc, please contact our office right away to schedule an exam with Dr. Colby. It is important to take back pain seriously. Once injured, a disc becomes more susceptible to reoccurring episodes of back pain. These episodes can linger and will typically get progressively worse. This cycle can continue until treatment is sought or the disc finally gives out. All types of back pain should be addressed.

Not sure a disc injury sounds like you?

Regardless of the source of the pain/injury, the spine is the information highway for our body and all back pain should be addressed to allow your body to function properly. Schedule a free consultation with Dr. Colby. He will listen to your concerns and determine if your case is a good fit for our clinic. If it is not, he will help you find the care you need.