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Can a Herniated Disc Heal with Chiropractic Treatment?


From targeted therapeutic exercises to physical therapy and medication, there are many ways to treat the symptoms related to a herniated disc (also commonly known as a "slipped disc" or “ruptured disc”) without surgery. One possible option is chiropractic care. The goal with spine-related discomfort stemming from a herniated disc is to ease pain and get the patient back to his or her daily routine, which may happen as a result of chiropractic intervention This article explains how and why discs may heal with chiropractic treatment.

Spinal Manipulation

A well-known part of chiropractic treatment, spinal manipulation can be done manually or with special handheld tools that apply pressure with a bit more force in a more evenly dispersed way. The pressure applied varies based on specific patient needs. Each situation involving a spinal disc is different based on factors such as where the disc is located and the extent of the herniation. Some patients may experience relief with spinal manipulation due to:

• A shift of the protruding disc material
• Reduced inflammation from the gentle manipulation of nearby tissues
• Increased flexibility within the affected area from the strategically applied pressure


Some chiropractors treat herniated discs and related symptoms with this technique, which is performed with a specially designed table. The purpose, in this instance, is to gently stretch and isolate the affected area of the spine. This method involves gentle pumping motions to increase disc height, reduce inflammation, and possibly shift disc material.

Pelvic Blocking Techniques

Another way a chiropractor may make herniated disc issues more manageable is with pelvic blocking. This treatment is done with cushioned wedges placed below each side of the pelvis. Patient-specific exercises may be part of this approach to treatment as well. Over time, the exposed disc material could gradually move away from nearby nerve roots.

Evaluating the Entire Spine

Chiropractic care typically takes the condition of the entire spine into consideration. This allows the chiropractor to recommend a customized treatment plan that takes all issues affecting the spine, discs, and connecting or nearby soft tissues into consideration. The process of addressing herniated disc issues with chiropractic treatment also typically involves:

• A physical examination
• Diagnostic testing that often includes X-rays or an MRI scan to determine the nature and extent of the herniation
• A discussion of the symptoms
• Determining the most appropriate way to address symptoms

Giving Chiropractic Treatment Time before Considering Other Options

Unless herniated disc symptoms are severe or potentially life-threatening, patients typically have time to try a variety of treatments before making any decisions about surgery. Results from chiropractic treatments vary, and it can take several months to fully benefit from them due to the gentle techniques used. If chiropractic care is not effective after you have tried it for a while, talk to your doctor to discuss other treatment options.

If you have a herniated disc that is not responding to conservative treatment, a discectomy may be discussed and potentially recommended. Although this is generally a very successful back surgery procedure, having a large hole in the outer ring of the disc more than doubles the risk of needing another operation. A new treatment, Barricaid, is a bone-anchored device that closes this hole, and 95 percent of Barricaid patients did not undergo a reoperation due to reherniation in a 2-year study timeframe. This treatment is done immediately following the discectomy—during the same operation—and does not require any additional incisions or time in the hospital. 

If you have any questions about the Barricaid treatment, ask your doctor or contact us at 844-288-7474.

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