A Spinal Disc Bulge or Herniation: What’s the Difference?

As a chiropractor here in Mount Waverley I’m often asked what’s the difference between a disc bulge and herniation. The bones, discs, ligaments, and muscles of your spine are designed to help you maintain proper spinal alignment, posture, and movement. Between each set of bones or vertebrae is a small rubbery disc. These discs act as small shock absorbers for your spinal bones and nerves. They have a tough, rubber-like outer layer called the annulus fibrosis and a soft jelly-like center that is called the nucleus pulposus. As you age or encounter injuries, the curve of your spine may fall out of alignment. This can place uneven stress on your spinal column and discs, increasing the chance of having a disc break down and herniate.

Why it Matters:

A disc herniation occurs when the outer portion of the disc ruptures (or tears) and the soft inner portion squeezes out. This type of injury can cause pain at the site of herniation, or sometimes the herniated disc can pinch a nearby nerve, causing pain that can radiate down into your arms and legs.  Similarly, a disc bulge occurs when the outer wall of the disc is weakened, but the inner portion has not yet broken through.

  • A disc herniation occurs when the inside of a spinal disc breaks through its outside wall.
  • Disc herniations often contribute to nerve compression, which can send pain, weakness, or numbness into your arms or legs.
  • By maintaining proper spinal alignment, you can reduce added wear and tear on your discs and potentially decrease the likelihood of a disc herniation.

Next Steps:

Now that you know what a disc herniation is, be sure to stay tuned. Next week, we’ll reveal the best ways you can find natural relief. Can you guess what type of care resulted in over 90% of people with a disc herniation finding improvement within the first few months? We’ll be back next week with the answer!

Science Source(s):

Columbia University. The Spine Hospital 2018

Herniated Disk: What is it? Harvard Medical School. Harvard Health Publishing 2018

Facet Joints: Gliding Your Way to Better Health

If you’ve had neck or back pain that you could pinpoint with your finger, or experienced sharp pains when you move, it may be related to the facet joints of your spine. It’s easy to think of your facet joints like the “knuckles” of your spine. They are small joints and have a capsule and cartilage pad that glides and slides, allowing your spine to move.

Why it Matters:

As you go through life and your spinal discs go through the aging process, your facet joints end up taking on extra load. Unfortunately, this excess stress and pressure can wear down your facet joints. What results is the beginning of the degenerative process, which means you can end up with adhesions, restricted motion, bone spurs and, well…pain.

  • The facet joints of your spine slide and glide as you move.
  • Restrictions or adhesions in the facets can occur with age and injury.
  • Chiropractic adjustments help the facet joints move freely and decrease painful restrictions in motion.  

Next Steps:

The facet joints of your spine love to move, and, in fact, movement helps them stay healthy and may even slow down the degenerative process. Chiropractic adjustments may help reduce adhesions on these joints, allowing you to move more freely and with less pain. Here at Waverley Chiropractic Centre, we believe that when you’re moving better, you’re feeling better, and we’re proud to be a part of the healthcare team that helps you stay active!

Science Source:

Magnetic resonance imaging zygapophyseal joint space changes (gapping) in low back pain patients following spinal manipulation and side-posture positioning: a randomized controlled mechanisms trial with blinding. JMPT 2013

The Bowling Ball and the Pin: How Poor Posture Causes Neck Pain

The average human head weighs about 3.6kg. Each day we all walk around with a bowling ball (our head) balancing on a toothpick (our neck). We are designed this way to allow for the full range of motion we all know and love. Even under the best circumstances, this places a lot of stress on our spine. But leaning forward even just 15 degrees pushes that weight up to 13kg, and with a 30 degree tilt it’s closer to 18kg!  (That’s 5 bowling balls on top of neck!)

Why it Matters:

Driving a car, working on the computer, and using a tablet/phone all usually result in less than ideal posture. And when you start to lean forward, it places a tremendous amount of extra pressure on the discs in your neck and spine. This can cause increased compression and lead to pain. Even just a few centimetres of forward head posture can double or triple the amount of stress on the spinal joints in your neck.

  • The average human head weights approximately 3.6-4.5kg.
  • For every 2.5cm of forward head posture, an additional 4.5kg of weight is added to your spine.
  • Forward head posture may result in muscle imbalances, a high risk for spinal degeneration, reduced range of motion, and pain.

Next Steps:

Take a moment today at work and notice if your shoulders are rounding, the head has moved forward, and upper back is hunched over. If you see yourself slouching into this posture, let us know. We would love to provide you with some exercises you can do at work to help strengthen the muscles supporting your spine and combat these muscle imbalances. And remember, the more time you spend in this posture, the more likely you are to suffer head and neck pain.

Science Source(s):

The Physiology of the Joints, Volume III. 6th ed. London: Churchill Livingstone; 2007.

Myofascial trigger points, neck mobility and forward head posture in unilateral migraine. Cephalalgia 2006

Boost your nervous system naturally

Your life is experienced through your nervous system. Think about that. Every thought, breath, heartbeat, memory, and movement happens in coordination with your central nervous system.  Researchers have found that nerve signals can travel from your brain to your body at more than 250 miles per hour. Your brain is the master control system of your body with signals and messages starting in the brain and then heading out and down to your body. But can messages travel the other way? What if I told you there are ways you can impact your brain by moving your spine? It’s true…

Why it Matters:

Top researchers have found that specific movements of the spine, including the motion that happens during a chiropractic adjustment, can provide a multitude of benefits to your brain and nervous system. Adjustments activate the nerves that detect and sense motion. When those nerves are activated, it stops (or gates) the nerves that deliver pain signals. That is one of the reasons why adjustments provide pain relief. They literally “turn off” the pain sensors! Perhaps even more exciting is the emerging research that has shown adjustments can increase cortical drive. That’s a fancy way of saying researchers have found adjustments can make you stronger!  

– Your entire life is experienced through your central nervous system- every thought, memory, and action.  

– Movement of your spine can activate your central nervous system and brain

– Emerging research has shown chiropractic adjustments can help reduce pain, improve function, and even increase strength!

Next Steps:

Chiropractic care has been helping people live their best life for over 100 years. Having a higher quality of life and feeling better (with less pain) are two of the most popular reasons why people seek chiropractic care. But new research into sports performance, strength, and how the adjustment can improve brain function have a lot of people excited. We would love to hear how chiropractic care has changed your life. Stop by the front desk and tell us your story today!

Science Source: Mechanism of action of spinal manipulative therapy. Joint, Bone, Spine 2003. Neurophysiological effects of spinal manipulation. Spine Journal 2002.