The spinal disks (or discs) are protective shock absorbing pads in between the spinal vertebrae. Though the spinal disks do not actually slip out of place, they do have a gelatinous center ( nucleus pulposus ) that can rupture, bulge, or herniate through the outer fibrous containment walls of the disk ( annulus fibrosus ).
Disk herniation, ruptured disk, bulging disc, slipped disk, and prolapsed disk, are all terms used to describe an injured disk that is no longer able to function properly, and has lost the ability to contain the jelly-like substance in it's center where it belongs. This is usually confirmed by cervical or lumbar MRI.
This can happen all at once from an injury, such as a car accident, sports injury, or slip and fall...or over time as a result of degenerative disk disease from poor posture at home or work, chronic misalignments of the spine, hormonal imbalances, or hereditary factors.
When the disks rupture or herniate it can put pressure on the spinal nerve roots resulting in a "pinched nerve". Pinched nerves in the neck can cause pain down the arm. A pinched nerve in the low back from a bulging or herniated disk can cause sciatica or pain down the leg.
There are varying degrees of disk herniations (see herniated disk nomenclature ). Depending on the severity of a ruptured or slipped disk, back surgery may be indicated. But this is rare. There are nonsurgical options for bulging and herniated spinal disks such as spinal disk decompression , physical therapy, and chiropractic.
Many herniated disks in the spine simply heal on their own. And some people live and die with disk herniations and never even knew they had them.
However...there is a sub-set of herniated disk patients that develop chronic back pain or chronic neck pain. Some become severely disabled. It just depends on the age of the patient, the degree of spinal degeneration, and the severity of the disk pathology, and how many spinal disks are involved.
Nonsurgical spinal decompression is the new gold standard as far as natural treatments for disk herniations goes. Disk decompression helps the disk to heal by helping to restore normal inter-vertebral disk position, enlarging the disk space, elongating the spine, and absorbing the herniated disk fragments back to the center of the injured disk by creating a "negative pressure".
Does nonsurgical spinal decompression make sense for you? You need to decide that for yourself. The first step is to locate a disc decompression doctor and find out if you qualify medically...not all herniated disk patient do.
The good news is...spinal decompression is safe and it's gentle. And if it doesn't help you can explore other treatment options. If you have spinal fusion you are automatically disqualified from spinal decompression. It's something to think about.