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A spinal disc herniation, more commonly known as a slipped disc, is when one of the intervertebral discs of the spine is torn slightly, allowing the soft central portion to leak out and become trapped between the vertebrae. This injury is more common in the elderly and those whose occupation requires them to lift heavy loads, as age and stress wear at the discs over time. While herniated discs can be quite painful, chiropractic treatment can aid in reducing pain, improving spine health and possibly even preventing the necessity of surgery in some cases. Herniated discs tend to occur towards the base of the spine, most notably the lumbar region and segments of the tailbone. It is possible for this injury to occur elsewhere, although these are generally caused by trauma as opposed to wear and tear. The first and most obvious symptom of this injury is constant, unrelenting pain. In minor cases, the pain may be barely noticeable. In fact, studies have shown that a large percentage of the population has some degree of slipped discs that in fact cause them no pain, and are quickly healed by the body without their knowledge. However, in severe cases the pain can be so horrible as to incapacitate the sufferer. These pains tend to occur on only one side of the body, and are not confined to the spine. It is typical for limbs, most often the knees and legs, to also be a source of extreme pain as the nerve endings are pinched by the vertebrae. The key symptom of a serious slipped disc is severe pain which does not vary in location or intensity for very long periods, often continuing unabated for days, weeks or months. Some sufferers may even experience nausea or numbness in affected limbs. Careful examination by a chiropractor or other qualified health professional and probing of affected regions is necessary to give an accurate diagnosis and efficient treatment. Some slipped discs will repair themselves if the patient is given time to rest and an opportunity to take stress off the spine by reclining. Three quarters of patients with this problem heal within about three months of their initial injury, with many recovering much sooner. Appropriate treatment from a chiropractor can help to speed recovery and reduce pain. Medical doctors may recommend aspirin or other over the counter painkillers for pain relief during healing of minor slipped discs, and prescribe high-powered painkillers for more serious pain. However, the possible result of prescription painkillers is dependency on such drugs. Anti-inflammatory drugs may also be prescribed for patients who don't show signs of recovery, in an attempt to help the disc shrink and be more quickly repaired by the body. In some cases, doctors will recommend back surgery to correct the problem. By contrast, doctors of chiropractic use drug-free techniques such as manual adjustments to help correct subluxations, or misaligned vertebrae, which can cause herniated discs. Their techniques can provide effective pain relief without the need for medications. Many chiropractors also employ Cox flexion-distraction techniques to help correct slipped discs in the lower back. This method uses a special chiropractic table to gently stretch the lower spine in a series of slow, repetitive movements and decompress the discs, taking the pressure off the spinal nerves and allowing the center of the disc to return to its proper location. Clinical studies have shown that over two thirds of patients who undergo a typical program of 12 flexion-distraction treatments report good to excellent improvement. In many cases, patients who otherwise would require surgery are able to heal without any invasive treatments. Because surgery on a slipped disc is risky, expensive, and often ineffective, it is highly recommended that sufferers try a chiropractor before turning to surgery.
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