Help for Low Back Pain
Question: Dear Dr. Harvey,
I have recently been diagnosed with a bad disc in my lower back. My doctor said that there are signs of degeneration and that surgery may be an option. Can Chiropractic help treat a bad disc?
Answer: The disc is a part of the spine that has received a lot of attention lately. The terms "slipped disc," "ruptured disc," "prolapsed disc," or "herniated disc" are terms that most people have heard. However, most people could use a better understanding of these terms.
The term "slipped disc" is a layman's term. The disc cannot slip - it is knitted into the vertebrae from both above and below. The vertebrae may slip or move and put pressure on the disc, resulting in symptoms. The term "herniated disc" is when the disc bulges to one side. The bulge may be mild to severe. Remember, the disc is made up of two parts: a tough, fibrous outer ring (called the annular fibrosis) and the gel-like center (the nucleus purposes). Over the years, the disc loses a little fluid and small cracks (lesions) begin to form in the outer walls. The nucleus begins to bulge and push the annular fibrosis out of shape. This is called "protrusion" or "herniated disc." If the nucleus bulges too much, it may actually separate from the rest of the disc. This is called a "prolapsed disc." The prolapsed disc is the most severe of all these and usually results in severe pain.
This disc may also degenerate along with the vertebrae themselves. Most people lose 1/2"-2" in height when they get into their 60s and 70s. The majority of this height loss is due to the compression or shrinkage of the disc.
As for treatment, the medical approach to disc problems is often a combination of painkillers, muscle relaxers, anti-inflammatories, and physical therapy. If these fail to bring results, surgery may be suggested.
The success of back surgery varies. Symptomatic improvements such as lessening of the pain are often short-lived. Within one year, post-surgery, a large number of patients are no better than before and most symptoms return. In a study of 7,391 operations performed by 71 different surgeons, 48% had the same symptoms within one year after surgery as before. Currently, there are approximately 600,000 back surgeries performed per year with about a 50% failure rate!
Chiropractic care has an excellent record with disc sufferers. According to one study of 1,536 lumbar-spinal-problem patients who were under Chiropractic care, 96.4% had satisfactory results! Surgery was resorted to in only 3.4% of the patients. This study showed two things: one, that Chiropractic care is extremely effective with spinal disc problems and two, that of those who had surgery, the delay in time while they explored Chiropractic care did not cause them any harm.
In conclusion, the research shows that Chiropractic care is very successful in treating disc problems. I believe that anyone considering back surgery should first consult a Chiropractor for a second opinion in regards to other options. If I may answer any further questions, please contact me at my clinic.
©2009 Dr. Harvey