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What Happens if a Herniated Disc Goes Untreated?

Oct 21, 2020

What Happens if a Herniated Disc Goes UntreatedWhile you may not often think about your spine, it is quietly doing a large amount of work every day, serving as your body’s primary support structure, keeping you upright, and holding your body together. Your spine is made up of 33 vertebrae, which are separated by soft, cushion-like discs that absorb shock as you move. This all happens without much thought- until one of these discs bulges out of place and interferes with the surrounding nerves, or herniates. When this happens, you will experience pain and discomfort and should seek the care of a Lithia Springs chiropractor to address the issue quickly. This can help prevent the issue from turning into chronic pain or lifelong issues.

Signs of a Herniated Disc

Unlike some minor back pain, herniated discs will usually not clear up on their own over time, but will worsen and cause other issues when untreated. This means that it’s important to seek treatment from a chiropractor as soon as the problems appear. Keep reading to understand the early warning signs that may indicate this kind of injury.

Pain When Sitting

Even though we think of sitting as a relaxing activity, it can actually exert a tremendous amount of pressure on your lower spinal discs. If one of these discs has already herniated, the increased pressure may cause the disc to bulge even further and lead to more back pain.

Pain Radiating Into Your Leg

When a disc in your lower back herniates or bulges, it is typically in the posterior (back) or lateral (side) region, putting it in close contact with your spinal nerve roots. The bulge or leaking contents of the disc can directly compress a spinal nerve root as it exits the spinal canal, leading to pain. When leaking, discs can also emit an acidic chemical irritant from the inner material, which can cause a chemical irritation in the area around the nerve root, leading to inflammation and pain in that area.

This type of nerve root interaction can lead to a burning pain, numbness, weakness, or tingling in the areas controlled by that nerve, which in this case would be the thighs, legs, and feet. These symptoms are often known as sciatica and often appear in only one leg at a time.

Pain During Certain Activities

While there is usually no sole, clear reason for a lumbar herniated disc, many activities can worsen the pain or bring it to your attention. The pain often comes on suddenly, but you may notice it is exacerbated by things like bending, lifting heavy objects, pushing or pulling heavy objects, or even coughing and sneezing.

Where exactly you experience pain may differ based on the location of your herniated disc. A lumbar disc being herniated is more likely to lead to pain in the lower back and legs, while a cervical herniated disc will impact the neck and arms more.

When to See a Doctor

Many times, discs will herniate as a result of general wear and tear that comes with age. As the discs degenerate, they are more likely to be injured or moved. Anyone over the age of 35 is considered to be at higher risk for herniated discs. People who are overweight and who work physically demanding jobs are also more likely to suffer from a herniated disc. If you are in any high-risk group, it is important to see a doctor when early signs appear, to prevent further stressing your spine and creating lifelong injuries.

While you should see a Lithia Springs chiropractor at the first sign of issues, it is usually not an emergency visit. However, if you experience certain symptoms, you should seek care quickly. Difficulty controlling your bowels and bladder, numbness in the groin, or problems beginning urination can all be signs your herniated disc has escalated to cauda equine syndrome. When this happens, severe cases can lead to partial paralysis and trouble walking.

At AICA Lithia Springs, our chiropractors strive to take a non-invasive approach to treating herniated discs whenever possible. By working with in-house specialists, a combination of adjustments, pain management, and guided physical therapy are often able to bring patients relief in a matter of weeks while strengthening the spine for fewer issues in the future. AICA Lithia Springs also offers an imaging center to help with identifying the location of your herniated disc to better guide your individualized treatment plan. If you are ready to relieve your pain and improve your spinal health, contact us today for your first appointment!

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