We see a couple of different spinal disc problems in our practice. There are discs in the neck, the mid-back, and the lower back. But most commonly, the one that we see the most is L5-S1, down at the base of the spine. It is one of the biggest discs down at the bottom. It supports the most weight, so it usually takes the most abuse. Typically, you will see a disc problem occur from a slip or a fall, or they can slowly degenerate over time, and that is called disc degeneration.
Disc degeneration, disc herniations, and also disc bulges are all very common to see in the lumbar spine. And they can also commonly happen in the cervical spine. And they can happen slowly over time, or they can happen almost immediately from a slip, or a fall, or a trauma to the head, or anything like that.
The most common treatment that we use in chiropractic is the spinal adjustment. A chiropractor adjusts or manipulates the spine to improve the mechanics, get the pressure off the discs, and allow those discs to decompress so they are not so irritated and bulging out into the space where the spinal cord and the nerves are. So, usually, by correcting the alignment, we can do that.
Very often, when people come in and they are in the initial phase of having a disc episode, there might be a lot of pain and spasm in the lower back and you may see neurological complications, like numbness, or tingling, or weakness in the leg. It is important to do a proper examination and figure out exactly if it is just a straight-up disc issue, without any neurological complications, or if there are neurological issues going on, like weakness, numbness, or tingling, or a loss of a reflex because there is a more significant situation. So, you assess the situation to be sure that it is a good case for conservative care.
We would start a series of adjustments, recommend some decompressing exercises, make sure that the patient is not jumping up and down and aggravating the disc, so the disc actually has time to heal. And what is most interesting, is that there is no process that does not require time. It is not realistic to think that I’m going to adjust the spine one time and everything is going to be okay. It takes work. It took time for that spine to misalign, and put pressure on the disc; then the disc started to have issues. It is not just a quick, easy fix. It takes time, energy, and repetition to really make something like that go away and get healthy.
Those are the best ways to really kind of look at the disc problems and understand them. Chiropractic is very effective, but don’t get me wrong. Every now and again, we will get a case that doesn’t respond well, and sometimes we have to refer that patient out for physical therapy, or even a visit to the orthopedist.
We always recommend trying chiropractic first because it is the least invasive, it is the most natural, and if you get good results with that, excellent. If you do not get good results with chiropractic, you can always move onto physical therapy and, as a last resort, the surgical procedures will always be there for you.
Dr. Gregg D. Rubinstein, D.C., is a midtown Manhattan chiropractor with over 20 years of experience providing customized chiropractic treatment services to a wide range of clients in the Midtown Manhattan/West New York City area. Dr. Gregg Rubinstein and 57th Street Chiropractic can be reached at (917) 534-6484 and is located at 119 West 57th St. in New York, NY.