Chiropractic And Cervical Disc Therapy

Have you ever felt your hands going numb for no apparent reason? Have you felt the strength in one or both hands decrease over time? Or do you have severe neck pain that has not responded well to over-the-counter medications? If you answered yes to any of these questions you may have a neck herniated disc...and chiropractic can help!

After reading this post you should be familiar with the following points:

  • Neck Herniated Disc Issues
  • How Chiropractic Can Help Neck Herniated Discs
  • How Spinal Decompression Helps Neck Herniated Discs

So buckle yourself and all your cervical discs up...this will be a fun ride! But first, let's cover a few very important facts about how your neck is built. If you understand your anatomy you will be able to better picture how chiropractic can help neck herniated discs...

CORE Concept: Your neck has these things called "cervical discs" and they can be the key to fixing your neck pain!

Studies have shown that 51-67% of adults experience neck and arm pain at some time. 

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Anatomy And Cervical Disc Therapy

houston neck pain
I want you to think of your neck as a tower of Lego blocks. If you stack the blocks of lego on top of each other you will end up building a tower...a tower that does not bend!! If this Lego tower were your neck you would be quite unhappy and virtually unable to do many of your daily activities comfortably. Now let's picture the same tower of Lego blocks but this time you put some Play Dough in between the blocks. Now the tower can bend and twist (even if just a bit)! Think of your discs as the the pieces of Play Dough that allow the blocks of Lego (your neck bones or vertebrae) to bend and twist, that is their main function!. 


So the main function of the discs, their purpose of existence if you will, is to allow you to bend and twist your neck. Now that we covered what is it the discs do let us examine how these discs are built.

The first bone in your neck is also called the Atlas because it holds the weight of the world (your head) #truestory

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Jelly Doughnuts, Neck Herniated Discs...And Neck Pain?

Now you that you know that your discs allow you to bend and turn let's talk about an important feature of your discs that may be the cause of your neck pain...but first let's visualize a delicious jelly doughnut.

Why a jelly doughnut? Because in reality your discs and a jelly doughnut share a similar structure. Think of how the delicious pastry has an outer "shell" (the dough) and a soft core (the jelly). Well, your discs are built in a similar fashion with a hard outer shell (annulus fibrosus) and a soft core (nucleus pulposus).

Why is this important? Your cervical disc's soft core (the jelly) sometimes bursts through the outer shell and can make your disc bulge out. This bulge can in turn put pressure onto a nerve which can cause a wide variety of symptoms ranging from pain to numbness to even weakness of the hands. 

CORE Concept: Your cervical discs have soft core that can bulge out and put pressure on a nerve potentially causing pain, numbness, and weakness in the hands and arms.

Chiropractic, Collagen And Cervical Disc Therapy

Chiropractors around the world are very aware of a particular protein that can literally make or break the quality of your neck or cervical discs, and this protein is key for successful cervical disc therapy: COLLAGEN

To be precise, your discs use a very specialized type of collagen that provides them with toughness and flexibility (Type I and II Collagen). Collagen is the same ingredient found in cartilage and even in your skin! Having healthy collagen means having healthy discs. 

What can damage the cartilage in your discs? Accidents, falls, spending long hours in front of the computer, and lack of motion are all associated with damage to the outer collagen-rich shell (annulus fibrosus) of the disc. Losing healthy cartilage within the disc wall is associated with increasing chances of developing a disc herniation. We will touch on things you can do to keep your discs healthy later in the post, but for now think of the possibility of increasing your consumption of cartilage. There are some studies that suggest that eating more collagen can reduce the chances of getting disc-related pain later on.

Spinal disc degeneration is influenced by biomechanical stressors associated with bipedalism (walking on two legs). Thank you evolution!

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CORE Concept: Collagen is essential for good disc health! Consult your dietician for ways to safely increase your collagen consumption. There are also collagen supplements at your disposal. Some of these supplements do contain shellfish so if you are allergic make sure you check for collagen supplements with no shellfish. 

Why You Need Chiropractic Cervical Disc Therapy

spanish speaking chiropractor

You might need chiropractic cervical disc therapy after sustaining damage to your cervical discs. There are many ways in which you can injury your cervical discs. However, after literally treating thousands of patients my colleagues and I have seen three problems with cervical discs that arise more frequently than others. 

But before we go into the most common problems or conditions of cervical discs I have to say that the purpose of this information is strictly educational, and if you are experiencing symptoms you should reach out to a chiropractor so that he/she can do a proper evaluation and truly determine what kind of diagnosis you may have. 

The three most common cervical disc problems are: 

  1. 1
    Loss of cervical disc height
  2. 2
    Cervical disc calcification
  3. 3
    Cervical disc herniation

CORE Concept: There are many ways in which you can injure a cervical disc. If you have pain, numbness, or weakness, and before you commit to any particular exercise or treatment, consult a chiropractor to determine what the best course of action is for you.

1- Loss Of Cervical Disc Height

chiropractic maintenance

Your discs need to be full and need to have a certain thickness (or "height") for them to work properly. If you remember, we covered that one of the main functions of the disc was to allow you to move and to bend. Your discs are also equipped with serving as "shock absorbers" that protect the bones and nerves of your neck particularly while walking and exercising. In order to perform these functions in an effective manner your cervical discs need to have proper thickness or height. However, one of the most common issues we are able to see in the clinic is that the disc starts to lose its thickness which makes it less able to protect you. Why do cervical discs lose their thickness or height? Is this exclusively a problem of older folks or can young people also lose their disc height? 

Firstly, let's cover why discs lose their height or thickness. The process is actually quite complex and there is much research that has been done on the subject trying to understand the intricate steps that lead to disc height loss. Even if there is no agreement on the specific chain of events that "flattens" cervical discs, we do know that there are two essential steps in the process: 1) damage to the outer disc shell, and 2) loss of water from within the disc. Firstly, the strong collagen fibers that give the disc its structure and toughness start to tear, either due to injury, lack of motion, and/or repetitive activities (think: sitting in front of a computer 10 hrs./day for weeks or years). These tears in the outer shell of the disc now allow some of the water from within the soft core of the disc to escape, almost like deflating a football. As a consequence, the once plump cervical disc can eventually look more like a pancake, exposing your cervical vertebrae (bones) and nerves to damage and injury.

The loss of cervical disc height is not a "senior citizen" problem! This can afflict patients from across the age spectrum. I have seen thinned out cervical discs in vibrant people in their 20s, and I have too seen amazing-looking discs on xray from patients much later on in life. Later in the post we will cover things that you can do to either avoid this issue altogether or to stop the progression of disc height loss. 

Collagen makes up one-third of all the protein in the human body #themoreyouknow 

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2- Cervical Disc Calcification

We find this particular problem whenever we are examining the xrays or radiographs of a patient with neck pain. What is calcification? Calcification is the process by which the body tries to make a bone out of a disc by putting calcium (basic ingredient of bone) on the disc itself. Generally it is accepted that the reason for this calcification is the body is trying to make the disc stronger when it detects an injury to the disc. Sometimes we see calcification happen in an area of the neck that was injured or an area of the neck that gets used all the time in what we call repetitive use injuries, or activities that you do all the time that can injure the disc. 

Calcification is most definitely a problem. Even though calcium in your discs will not directly cause pain, it will most definitely cause stiffness in the neck, as a calcified disc cannot allow your neck to move as well or as much as a healthy disc. Whenever there is lack of motion in the neck due to a calcified disc you can experience further signs of degeneration, muscle stiffness, nerve pain, and numbness. 

Another fact about cervical disc degeneration is that once it takes place it is permanent. Considering the irreversible nature of cervical disc calcification the emphasis we have at the clinic is on prevention. Chiropractic care is key in preventing calcification of cervical discs because it increases the motion or movement of the spine which in turn decreases the chances of calcification. Remember that disc calcification takes place due to lack of motion, so improving your neck's flexibility can have immensely positive effects for your cervical discs. 

CORE Concept: Movement is your spine's lifeline. The stiffer you are the more likely your spine is to be irreversibly degenerated. Chiropractic care is an essential tool in your arsenal to improving the motion in your spine.

3- Cervical Disc Herniation

Unlike the first two problems of cervical discs that we have covered, cervical discs are unique in the sense that we cannot see the herniation using the xrays we take in the office; We can only see a disc herniation using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology. However, with an expert chiropractic examination we can determine if you are showing signs of a possible disc herniation and design a care plan that allows for proper treatment of the injury...no need to run and get an MRI just yet!

So what is a cervical disc herniation? When the cervical disc becomes injured the soft core (nucleus pulposus) will try to "escape" the hard outer disc shell. When this soft core pushes against the wall of the disc it can create a bulge on the side of the disc. Why is this a problem? A bulge can put pressure on a nerve which can then cause many of the symptoms that bring people over to our clinic. 

Does having a disc herniation automatically mean you will suffer from pain and numbness? The answer is a resounding NO! There have been a number of studies showing that there are people walking around with no symptoms whatsoever who also have disc herniations. This is exactly why it is imperative that you get an expert chiropractic opinion about your spine before you run to get an MRI. In many cases your symptoms may not come from a bulging cervical disc.

Over 60% of cervical disc herniations happen in female patients and in the 51-60 year old age group. #chiropractic #knowledge

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Great Chiropractic Therapy For Cervical Discs

chiropractor neck pain

Cervical discs are a real problem for millions of people every year. However, this doesn't have to be a sentence to experience pain and discomfort forever! There are multiple ways in which chiropractic can offer therapy to improve the health of cervical discs. These therapies also apply for the discs of the rest of the spine, all the way to the lower back or lumbar spine. 

One reason why at CORE Chiropractic we are passionate about teaching you how to lead a healthy life free from many of the symptoms of cervical disc problems, is that we strongly believe a healthy you is a much happier and productive you! So do not delay and invest some time to visit us for expert advice and therapy!

Even if your cervical disc is degenerated or if you have had surgery for an old disc injury, chiropractic can definitely help you! These are three ways in which chiropractic can offer therapy to cervical discs.

1- Chiropractic Advice On Lifestyle Modifications After Cervical Disc Injuries

You need to start moving often in order to avoid disc injuries and improving the overall health of your spine. We are not advocating you start training for a triathlon (if you do, that would be awesome!). At CORE Chiropractic we advocate for our patients to develop an active lifestyle. I personally recommend walking and stretching. Walking will get most of your spine working by introducing mild impact to the spine. This is also terrific for the muscles around your spine which can protect it against disc degeneration. Gentle stretching before or after your walks is a great addition to your routine that can improve the range of motion of your spine and improve the health of the cervical discs.

CORE Concept: Walking is a gold standard for exercises. It increases your heart rate and improves spinal disc health by means of adding gentle impact to your back. Make sure you wear comfortable footwear that will make the experience more enjoyable.

Patients ask us bout their mattress all day every day in practice. Do not get me wrong: the quality of your mattress is very important when it comes to guaranteeing deep restorative sleep. However, very few patients ask us about sleep posture, and sleep posture has much more of an impact on the health of your spine and more specifically cervical discs. What posture should you hold while you sleep? If you want to help your cervical discs make sure that you are sleeping face up or on your side. In my experience if you are a face down sleeper interested in improving your sleep posture it helps to invest in a body pillow that you can hug and where you can rest your leg. This could be an excellent way to transition into a much healthier sleeping posture. 

At CORE Chiropractic we strive to offer the best chiropractic therapy available. Sometimes, we do refer our patients to competent dieticians and nutritionists if we determine that it will help increase the impact of chiropractic care. Some of the advice we do give our patients, especially pertaining disc health is to drink plenty of fluids. Your discs are mostly made of water so if you have neck or back pain you do not want to be dehydrated!

75% of American adults are dehydrated #drinkup

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2- Expert Chiropractic Adjustments and Cervical Disc Therapy

Can chiropractic adjustments help your cervical discs? The short answer is...absolutely! Let's consider how chiropractic can help your discs. As we have mentioned earlier in the post, the number one enemy of good cervical disc health is lack of motion. We develop a stiff neck and back usually by maintaining a particular posture, such as watching TV or driving a motor vehicle for hours on end. After maintaining these postures for several days, weeks, and sometimes years, the spine becomes very stiff and cannot move as well or as freely. This spinal stiffness (what chiropractors call "spinal hypomobility") is a major driver of disease and degeneration in the cervical discs. This is where chiropractic comes in! After performing a thorough exam and after hopefully taking some necessary xrays or radiographs, your chiropractor will help move the stiff parts of your spine, bringing motion back into the discs and allowing your discs to prevent degeneration and pain. 

But what if you already have a degenerated cervical disc? Or what if you already have a disc bulge? Can chiropractic help you? Can chiropractic adjustments help if you have had SURGERY in your spine? Most definitely yes! Chiropractic can help preserve the health of the part of the spine that is not yet affected as well as reducing the pain and dysfunction of the discs that have already been damaged. 

Some folks might wonder if they start getting adjusted by a chiropractor then they will never be able to stop. Well, my colleague Dr. Wafer answers that question in a video which you can watch right here.


3- Cervical Decompression Therapy...An Essential Part Of Cervical Disc Therapy

At CORE Chiropractic we also use an excellent technology called Spinal Decompression that has been a superb way of lessening the pain caused by herniated discs in the neck. Are you curious yet? The following video explains the technology and how it can help you:

Take-Home Points:

  • Your cervical discs are critical for you to move well and feel pain-free
  • You can help your cervical discs by getting cervical disc therapy which includes lifestyle modifications, chiropractic adjustments, and cervical decompression therapy
  • Great chiropractic care can make a world of difference for your neck. Do not procrastinate and schedule a consultation today!

About the Author Dr. Miguel Millan

Dr. Millan has over a decade of experience over thousands of treatments, helping a wide variety of patients including athletes, post-surgical patients, and chronic pain patients. He is interested in allowing his patients understand the role of their spine in their health and wellbeing. Dr. Millan is originally from Venezuela and is fluent in English and Spanish

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