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Back Pain and Herniated Discs

A 30-year-old mom bends over to pick up her four-year-old and feels a sharp stabbing pain in her lower back. A 60-year-old man bends over to pick up his five-year-old grandchild and feels an electrical shooting pain in his lower back. For both, the pain is so severe they need to sit down.

The next day, both the mom and the grandfather notice they now have pain and numbness radiating down one leg, and they are having trouble walking.

What's going on, how did it happen, and what can be done about it?

First of all, a little basic anatomy is useful. Spinal discs are weight-bearing shock absorbers. They contain a gel-like ball-bearing center, which is surrounded by tough fibrous cartilage, arranged in concentric, criss-crossing circles.1

As a person gets older, the discs naturally lose some of their water content, and cracks and fissures naturally develop in the fibrous cartilage. If a weight-bearing stress is unusual and unexpected, the gel-like material in the center of the disc can push through one of the fissures and possibly irritate a spinal nerve.

If enough of this material pushes through, the nerve can become inflamed and cause symptoms such as radiating pain and/or numbness, and possibly weakness, in one leg.

Typically, such pain and/or numbness radiates down the leg, traveling below the knee and possibly into the foot.

Such symptoms, with or without back pain, are highly suggestive of an inflamed spinal nerve. In fact, the person will usually say the leg symptoms are much worse and of greater concern than any back pain that may be present.

If the MRI confirms the disc herniation and suggests an inflamed nerve, the diagnosis is complete. What's next?

In the best scenario, conservative treatment may be sufficient and the nerve inflammation improves with time.2,3 Anti-inflammatory medication may be helpful. Chiropractic conservative therapy may include physical therapeutic modalities and gentle trigger point therapy to relieve associated muscle spasms.

A spinal surgeon should be consulted to provide an additional opinion and input. If pain is severe and there is neurologic loss, surgery may be the best option.

Of course, the best management, as always, is prevention. Pay attention to safe lifting procedures. Exercise regularly and get sufficient rest. Your chiropractor will be able to provide guidance and recommend effective protocols to help you achieve and maintain good health and wellness.

1Postacchini F: Lumbar Disc Herniation. Springer, 2004, Chapter 2.
2Rothoerl RD, et al: When should conservative treatment for lumbar disc herniation be ceased and surgery considered? Neurosurg Rev 25(3):162-165, 2002.
3Lumbar Disc Herniation. New Engl J Med 347(21):1728-1729, 2002.

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Testimonials

Reviews By Our Satisfied Patients

  • "I love it there so polite and right to the point never pushy or rude vet respectful. I wouldn’t go anyplace else. Love them all!!"
    Kandice Desalvo V.
  • "Dr. Ho and Dr. Q are caring and compassionate doctors. Their goal is to make you feel great. They take the time to listen to your concerns and address them. I would definitely recommend these doctors!"
    Sandra E.
  • "I got refer from a Dear good friend Jennifer which ive been having problems with my neck n knees. I would definitely recommend Pinnacle Wellness they have a great friendly staff n Doctors are great! I've learned a lot about our bodies n etc. I will continue seeing them again !!! My adjustments are great!"
    Cynthia T.
  • "We have been going to Pinnacle Wellness for over 3 months now, back pain has stopped 100%. We are still blown away by how amazing Dr. Q and Dr. Ho are. We are blessed they came into our lives and have truly added so much to our knowledge about our bodies and even personal growth and development. Pinnacle Wellness is nothing short of a breath of fresh air. Isabelle at the front desk always makes our day. If you are looking for a chiropractor that truly cares for your well being, my family would definitely recommend you to look no further and make Pinnacle Wellness your destination. I had just learned to live with and accept my daily back pain. Thanks to Pinnacle Wellness our lives have been forever changed and look forward to seeing the happy faces of the staff and will be enjoying a pain free life thanks to our journey with Pinnacle Wellness."
    Cara C.
  • "If you have back and/or neck trouble and have never been to a chiropractor before, then this is the place for you. I was referred here by my wife who has been seeing the doctors for several years. Since starting my adjustments I sleep better and feel better all around, and no it doesn't hurt. Currently I am recovering from tennis elbow and bursitis which the doctors are helping me recover by using a massager on my arm when I visit, even my physical therapist was glad they were helping out."
    Royce S.
  • "I have been a patient of Pinnacle Wellness for many years. They have a great, friendly staff and Doctors who truly care about there patients. I would recommend this place to anyone with back or neck pain."
    James S.
  • "The staff is extremely friendly and personable when you enter the facility. They make you feel like you are a part of the family. Our kiddos get adjusted too and for our infant it helped him to crawl properly when he was having difficulties or crawling abnormally. It is a vital part of our healthiness and we would recommend them to everyone!"
    Jennifer C.