Disc injuries are common among active people and athletes, particularly those who participate in contact sports. But what’s the difference between a slipped disc and a herniated disc? And more importantly, what can you do to treat a disc injury? This blog post will explain the differences between these two types of disc injuries, as well as the treatment options available.
There’s a very common expression called a “slipped” disc. What it really is, is a made-up term that doesn’t exist. You’re not going to bend over and your disc in your back is going to slip out and hit the person behind you, like a hockey puck.
Herniated discs, on the other hand, is a real terminology.
Let’s teach you a little bit about it.
Generally speaking, a disc, you can think of it like it’s like a jelly donut. But really it’s more like a tire. It has a very thick outer rim of essentially dead tissue, which is composed of collagen, various proteins, and water. But then, on the inside is where all the life takes place. The jelly of the jelly donut is essentially a cluster of live cells that are constantly putting out more collagen and matrix that makes up that tiring.
“Slipped discs” make it sound like this entire structure can just slip away and shoot out to one side or another. Oftentimes it’s just a common term for a disc that has either a bulge or herniation to it. Those can be a source of pain, but not always.
Now an important thing that we want to emphasize is when you have a bulged disc, you don’t have a disc-like a jelly donut exactly. Because it’s not so delicate, like a jelly donut, it’s a lot more like a tire. It’s as thick and as resilient as a tire that you can drive hundreds of thousands of miles on them. Jelly donuts are only good for filling my belly.
I often hear patients talk about how they were diagnosed with degenerative disc disease or they’ve got a bulge or a herniation. First of all, most people will have a bulge at some point in their life. That’s just kind of the same as how our face changes as we age, we just get wrinkles. We get our skin to be a little bit looser. It’s almost an inevitability, but it’s not necessarily something that’s problematic as much as it is. It’s just a sign of aging.
A herniated disc can be problematic. Going back to the tire analogy, if you compressed that tire, then there’s a part of the tire that has lost its strength and its integrity. Imagine if you squeeze a water balloon that has one area that’s weaker than the rest. It’s going to have an area that kind of bulges or we call herniations.
And if that herniation is smack-dab on top of the nerve, then yes, it can have a nerve that’s being affected by that disc. But that’s not always the case with a herniated disc. Oftentimes it’s more an indication of the structures around that disc have lost their stability or lost, their strength.
The discs in our back can get weak and cause pain. When this happens, the pressure from the discs pushes outwards and makes one area weaker than the others. Fixing only the disc does not fix all of the problems because other structures around it are also involved.
Exercise can prevent having the need for surgery
Exercises and some of the therapies that we provide at Wellward can do a lot, and even prevent the need for having surgery.
If you are having a herniated disc, here’s a little pro tip for you. There’s a simple exercise that looks like a yoga pose: an upward-facing dog. This involves placing your weight on your hands and lifting your legs off of the yoga mat as your chest reaches forward through your shoulders, prompting a deep bend in the low back.
It can be helpful for people who have disc-related low back pain. After that’s under control, some of the best things you can do are build the resilience of the spine by building a nice layer of armor through your muscles. Your abdominal and lower back muscles can decrease the amount of shear force because your strong muscles are taking that up.
What if you’ve done those exercises, but it still hurts? A lot of patients will come in and say: “Doc, I’ve hurt my back. I’ve injured my disc. How are you expecting me to do these exercises?” They will be worried that they are going to push that disc out further or damaged themselves even more with exercise. I would say that if you’ve got a good person giving you some guidance on the exercise, then you should be okay. Remember, these tissues are very resilient.
Look at it this way: How easy is it to damage the tire of a car with a small hammer? If you just hammer against that tire, it may get some scuffs on it, but it takes a lot to really damage it. Now circling to the back pain, if you twist your back a little bit and it hurts more on that day, the likelihood of you needing surgery for that injury is very low.
Here’s another analogy: If you were to clip a branch off of one of these beautiful spring trees, what’s going to happen? The tree doesn’t die. It grows branches around the area that was clipped. Our bodies are the same way it’s resilient and the way we stress the body, we’re training it to get stronger.
It’s just a matter of doing those exercises in small increments. Allowing for enough rest with proper nutrition, proper hydration, sleep, and just taking good care of your body, will continue to grow and evolve in the direction of the stresses that we place on it. If you have a herniated, bulging, or “slipped” disc, it doesn’t mean it’s the end of the road and there’s no other solution, but surgery.
It just means that there’s an area of weakness in your body that we now need to build on and strengthen. It means we need to create enough support structures around it so that it can function. Also, these activities will reduce the herniation or bulge that’s there while making everything more resilient.
Something unique that Wellward can offer
There’s a lot that we do. The whole concept of staying healthy and strong will help your back feel better. You can do this by exercising, but if that isn’t enough and you might need surgery to help your injury. If you want to speed up the healing process, we can apply regenerative methods. We can use some of our ortho biologics products that help grow new cells. They include prolotherapy and PRP, which are blood-derived growth factors. We can also do a bone marrow aspirate where we’re harvesting very potent cells that stimulate repair and put them back into those areas that need it the most.
This method can accelerate the body’s ability to repair in a much greater fashion than what your body can do on it. Whenever we do these tissue harvest and re injections, essentially we’re taking all of the things that your body normally uses to get stronger or to stimulate repair. Then we’re concentrating on about 10 to 14 times more than what your body can do on its own. We will then put it directly in the spot that needs it the most.
This way, we are directing all of your body’s attention to where the areas of greatest weakness, increasing the strength and stamina of everything around it. Eventually, you can exercise a whole lot more because you have a lot more capacity and ability.
So there you have it- the difference between a slipped and herniated disc. If you’re experiencing back pain, it’s important to get it checked out by a professional to determine the cause. Fortunately, in many cases, exercises and regenerative procedures can mean no need for surgery. We hope this article was helpful! If you have any questions or would like more information, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We offer free discovery calls so we can learn more about your unique situation and see if our services might be a good fit for you. Thanks for reading!
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DISCLAIMER: The information in this email is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content is for general informational purposes only and does not replace a consultation with your own doctor/health professional