Disc Herniation Bulges & Degeneration
...in February 2003 when I developed (what an MRI two weeks later would show to be) a large extruded disc. The pain was initially excruciating. When it stopped being excruciating, my left leg became completely numb. My left knee reflex was almost non-existent. Physically, I was at a stand-still. I was use to power-walking 4 miles a day and to moving quickly. I was frightened and looked to orthopedic specialists for answers.
Three doctors marveled at the size of my disc extrusion...I wasn't a good surgery candidate...not one of them knew what to do with me. Two and a half weeks after the injury, a friend of a friend called and literally insisted that I see Dr. Morris. He was convinced that this doctor could help me avoid surgery and recover. My initial exam with Dr. Morris lasted longer than all three of my previous doctor visits combined. After 30 days of treatment, the numbness had disappeared. My knee reflex had returned. Better yet, I'd learned how to move, what not to do, effective biomechanics, etc. Most importantly, as Dr. Morris' patient, I have been priviledged to experience a level of care that pays attention to my fears, answers my questions and is 100% present and focused on my condition...I recommend Dr. Morris without reservation." Sherri D. Cannon; Executive Coach, The Cannon Group, Inc., Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
Click Letters and Videos From Our Patients to learn from those who suffered with and know most about these conditions. They offer understanding and good advice.
What's a Disc Herniation?
The disc is a specialized tissue that acts as a shock absorber for the spine and a "spacer" that allows the spinal nerves enough room to exit without being "pinched."
The disc can herniate or bulge and pinch the spinal nerves and sometimes the spinal cord. The pain can be severe and shoot down either the arms or legs. It often coexists with numbness or muscle weakness.
A Cross Section of The Vertebra noting the location of the Spinal Canal which houses the spinal cord (looking downward from the top of the spine).
This is an MRI of a large disc herniation viewed from the side. Normally the disc stays within the boundries of the vertebrae above and below it. When the supporting fibers of the disc are weakened, the disc herniates into the neural canal (the vertical white tube) and can compress pain sensitive nerves.
This is the cross section of a normal disc. Notice how the disc is not bulging into the spinal canal (appears as a white circle below the disc).
This is the cross section of a verteba with a disc herniation. Notice how the disc is bulging into the spinal canal (the white area below the disc which is no longer in the shape of a circle).
What's the average medical treatment?
Usually your orthopedic surgeon or neurologist will recommend anti-inflammatory medication, muscle relaxants and possibly physical therapy. If that doesn't work, injections and surgery are tried. None of this is designed to correct the disc bulge and often the symptom subsides just to become chronic in the future.
What's Disc Degeneration?
After a disc has been injured, it may begin a degenerative downhill spiral. Since the blood supply to the discs decrease with age, injuries and smoking--the disc may not completely heal and begin to crack, tear and herniate. Much of the disc degeneration could probably be avoided with proper physical medicine (i.e. correct disc exercises, spinal mobilization, realignment and, if necessary, non-surgical spinal decompression).
Notice when a disc degenerates, it narrows and the vertebrae move closer together. Disc degeneration is a process of advanced drying and aging of the disc usually begun by an injury although genetics and smoking may also play a role. Treatment must be geared towards correcting the spinal misalignment (if necessary) and restoring the circulation to the disc so it can heal.