Lisburn Chiropractic Clinic | Belfast | Northern Ireland
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Disc Herniation

Many patients with back pain, leg pain, or weakness of the lower extremity muscles are diagnosed with a herniated disc. When a disc herniation occurs, the cushion that sits between two vertebrae is pushed from its normal position. A herniated disc would not be a problem if it weren’t for the spinal nerves that are located very close to the edge of these spinal discs.

The spinal disc acts as a soft cushion that sits between each vertebra of the spine. In younger people, the disc is soft and pliable. With advancing age, the disc gradually loses its elasticity and becomes more vulnerable to injury.

When the disc degenerates, a portion of the spinal disc pushes outside its normal boundary – this is called a herniated disc. When a herniated disc bulges out from between the vertebrae, the spinal nerves can be pinched or compressed. There is normally a little extra space around the spinal cord and spinal nerves. If enough of the herniated disc is pushed out of place and is large enough, then these structures may be compressed and cause pain.

A herniated disc may occur suddenly in an event such as a fall or an accident, or may occur gradually over many years with repetitive strain on the spine.

When the spinal cord or spinal nerves become compressed by a herniated disc, they don’t function properly. This means that abnormal signals may get passed from the compressed nerves, or depending on the severity of the herniation, nerve signals may not get passed at all.

Common symptoms of a herniated disc include:

- sharp, shooting pain down the legs or arms (depending on where the disc herniation is) – often described as feeling like an electric shock
- tingling, numbness or pins and needles in the arms or legs
- muscle weakness
- bowel or bladder problems – this occurs in very severe cases of disc herniation. If these symptoms are present along with the above 3 symptoms, it is a medical emergency and your doctor should be contacted immediately

All of these symptoms are a result of irritation of the nerve from the herniated disc. By interfering with the pathway by which signals are sent from your brain to your extremities and back to the brain, all of these symptoms can be caused by a herniated disc placing pressure on the nerves.

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