What Happens if a Herniated Disc Goes Untreated?

Oct 2, 2020

What Happens if a Herniated Disc Goes UntreatedWith any injury, there is a risk associated with foregoing treatment and hoping the symptoms subside. This can be particularly true of spinal injuries, as the spine controls the nervous system which communicates with the rest of the body, making these risks more widespread and long term. In the case of a herniated disc, this remains true. Not only are these disc injuries painful, but without the help of a chiropractor in Atlanta, they can lead to nerve damage and chronic pain. Understanding what a herniated disc is and how it can be treated may be able to prevent a lifetime of pain if you should ever experience this injury.

Understanding Herniated Discs

Our spinal column is composed of a series of stacked vertebrae, connected by a tissue that serves as a shock absorber between the bone. These are known as intervertebral discs, and they are made up of a gelatinous material that makes them have a bouncy quality, which is then connected to the vertebrae. When everything is normal, the edges of these discs match up to the edges of vertebrae, but when they push out or “bulge” past this perimeter, this is when an issue called a herniation occurs. The space beyond the discs is occupied by fragile spinal nerves, and when discs take up that space, they become inhibited, leading to pain and other issues.

In most cases, these discs begin to bulge as a result of degeneration over time or a repetitive strain on the spine. Poor posture can often contribute, but as we age, many of us will see the effects of simple wear and tear. For some people, a disc can bulge for long periods before symptoms manifest, though they eventually will. When symptoms do occur, they are often excruciatingly painful and impact quality of life, and herniated discs do not typically heal on their own.

Because a herniated disc impacts nerves, the most common symptoms are pain that radiates into the extremities, down to the fingers or toes. Depending on where the herniated disc sits, either the upper or lower body can be impacted. The affected area may also experience tingling and numbness, or muscle weakness and spasms. When the disc is in the cervical spine, headaches and neck pain may occur as well.

Consequences of Delaying Treatment

Most people will seek treatment for a herniated disc simply because the pain is hard to tolerate and they are looking for relief. While some will say they have high pain tolerance and wait for the issue to clear up, just because the pain subsides does not mean they have healed. In fact, an untreated herniated disc can lead to much more severe issues that become chronic. It is best to visit a chiropractor in Atlanta as soon as you begin to suspect this issue to prevent it from worsening.

A severe case of a bulging disc can cut off nerve impulses, even causing permanent nerve damage. Additionally, you may experience sharp paints, incontinence, bowel movement irregularity, or even partial paralysis as the issue worsens. One example is a condition known as saddle anesthesia, in which the nerves are so compressed that sensation is lost in the inner thighs, back of the legs, and area surrounding the rectum.

While a herniated disc can usually be treated with non-invasive methods, a condition that is left untreated may progress to the point that the only route possible is a surgical one.

Seeking Treatment

As soon as you begin experiencing pain that interferes with your quality of life, it is important to reach out to a chiropractor in Atlanta to assess the severity of your slipped disc. You will likely be asked to perform a series of tasks meant to assess your nerves, through examinations of your walking strength, reflexes, and ability to feel light touches. This will usually be enough to diagnose the condition, though in some cases you may be sent for imaging.

Based on the results, they will be able to develop a treatment plan that meets your needs. While this may involve an initial prescription for pain management, they will likely work with you and a physical therapist to develop an exercise plan designed to strengthen the back, neck, and abdominal muscles. If this does not relieve the pain, you may also be given cortisone injections to more directly address the pain.

If you may be suffering from a herniated disc, the chiropractors at AICA Atlanta are here to help. Working with a team of specialists, AICA Atlanta will assess your injury and develop an individualized treatment plan to relieve your pain in the most natural and effective way possible. Call us today!