Your spine is the support system for the body. Just as a house needs a good framework to be structurally sound, your spine and skeleton provide you with a framework for life. Your spine allows you the strength and flexibility to walk, run, dance, lift, sit or stand.
The spine is made up of multiple bones called vertebrae, stacked one atop the other and held in position by ligaments, tendons and muscles. You have seven vertebrae in the neck, twelve in the thoracic area — which extends from the upper middle to low back — and five in the lowest part of the spine. Between the vertebrae are spongy pads of tissue called intervertebral disks. Each vertebra has a hole through which the spinal cord passes from the brain to the tailbone. The nerves that control your body functions and allow you to move branch off from the spinal cord through smaller holes in the vertebra.
A spine is both strong and delicate at the same time. It supports the weight of the skull and body even during heavy activity such as weight-lifting. However, like many parts of your anatomy, the spine must be well-balanced to work properly. If your spine is injured, or becomes imbalanced through chronic poor posture or degeneration of the bones, it will cause back pain and put pressure on the nerves that exit between the vertebrae.
As some people get older — particularly if they have done heavy work for many years — the disk between two vertebrae may begin to protrude into the spinal canal or press on one of the nerves. Sometimes the sac of the disk actually ruptures, which means the two vertebrae no longer have a cushion between them. Although you can develop a ruptured disk at any level of the spine, the neck and low back area are more prone to this problem. The neck takes the brunt of whiplash accidents, for example, which can cause a disk to rupture. A ruptured disk in the neck can cause headaches, arm pain and weakness in the arms and hands. The low back is susceptible because it must support your weight through all of your daily activities. People who do a lot of heavy lifting are more likely to develop a ruptured lumbar disk than those who have sedentary lives. If a disk ruptures in this area, it may put pressure on the sciatic nerve, which is located at the base of the spine. In addition, the pressure causes inflammation of the nerve. The pressure can cause severe back pain and leg pain in one or both legs.
Back and neck pain can be immobilizing. This sort of pain is very different from a muscle strain, which can often be treated with rest, ice packs and other-the-counter pain relievers.
Herniated disk treatment begins with a thorough assessment, using various modalities to ensure you have been properly diagnosed. An ultrasound is a way to look inside the body to see an image of the structures underneath. We also use electromyography (EMG), a way to measure the electrical and muscle activity of the body. An EMG allows us to determine the precise problem, such as what nerves have been affected. We can also perform a gait and motion analysis. This technique is used to assess your movements and tell us if the body is out of balance.
Once we’ve identified the problem, we may use chiropractic techniques to get the spine in proper alignment. We may also need to work on your legs and pelvis, as pain may cause you to guard or change your posture, which affects the alignment of the spine. Acupuncture and trigger point therapy can help relieve muscle spasm and pain. Physical therapists can teach you how to strengthen your body, including the muscles that support the spine, and help you develop a personalized exercise program. Laser therapy is an option for some patients to treat pain or decompress the disk to relieve pressure on the nerve. Dynamic muscular stabilization is a way of teaching you how to move to decrease pain and stress on the spine. Our 15 years of experience will assure you an individualized treatment program. Please call us to schedule your consultation.