Does Chiropractic Care Work for a Herniated Disc?

Question: My doctor recently diagnosed me with a  herniated disc in my lumbar spine. I want to try chiropractic care, but I’m  nervous because I’ve never tried it before. Will chiropractic care work for me? ─St. Paul, MN

Answer: It’s normal to be a little nervous about the  unknown. If you haven’t tried chiropractic care before, rest assured, there is  evidence that shows that chiropractic techniques such as spinal manipulation  (also called spinal adjustment) and other forms of manual and mechanical  therapy are safe and may be effective for relieving your pain and other symptoms.1  I encourage you to try chiropractic care as a non-surgical treatment option for  your herniated disc. However, as I discuss below, it’s ultimately your  decision.

At your first appointment, your chiropractor will take a  complete medical history and perform a thorough exam to determine the nature of  your symptoms and their possible causes—including a herniated disc.

You didn’t mention your specific symptoms, but sometimes  with a herniated disc, you may have no symptoms at all. For other people, a  herniated disc can cause back pain with or without referred pain (pain that’s  felt in other parts of the body such as the legs).

Additionally, a herniated disc can irritate a spinal nerve,  causing symptoms in your legs. This can eventually lead to neurological  symptoms such as tingling, numbness, or weakness in your legs.

Once your chiropractor determines that your symptoms are likely  to respond to chiropractic care, he or she may use several chiropractic  techniques to help relieve your back pain and other symptoms.

Examples of techniques used by chiropractors for disc-related  problems include specific self-treatment exercises to help improve range of  motion in your low back, decrease low back pain, and relieve leg symptoms (eg,  the McKenzie method); spinal traction using specialized tables (eg, Cox  technique); and spinal manipulation (a hands-on technique that helps relieve  pain and restores movement to your spine). In addition to these techniques, which  have been proven to be very safe, there are some other techniques your  chiropractor may recommend for your specific condition.

Your chiropractic treatment plan will also most likely  include education and self-management instructions to teach you how to control  or eliminate your pain with proper posture and correct body mechanics.

Whichever treatment your chiropractor recommends, he or she  will discuss it with you, including the benefits and risks. Although the  treatments listed above will most likely be a part of your treatment plan, your  chiropractor will answer your questions and work with you to select a treatment  that meets your specific goals and preferences.

Your  chiropractor will monitor your progress carefully. If your symptoms do not  improve with a reasonable trial program of chiropractic treatment, you may want  to consider other ways to manage disc-related pain, including physical therapy,  acupuncture, spinal injections, or surgery.

In some cases, self-management  and time may be the best treatments. Your chiropractor will also monitor your  progress if you decide to go this route.

In any case, your chiropractor is qualified to discuss the benefits and  risks of other forms of treatment as it relates to your condition. This will  empower you to make the best choice for your herniated disc symptoms