Herniated Discs | SF:  For decades, doctors and scientists believed that most back pain was caused by ”slipped” or “torn” discs (AKA herniated discs). We now know this not to be true. Disc problems constitute only a small portion of the causes of back pain and rarely require surgery for pain relief.  That being said, disc pain can be quite severe and requires expert treatment.  Dr. Smith safely and effectively treats Disc Pain in San Francisco.

Herniated Discs San Francisco
San Francisco | Herniated Disc

“Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.”


~Joseph Campbell

Herniated Discs | San Francisco

Discs provide shock absorption, protecting the spinal cord and ensuring flexibility of the spine. The spinal discs are essentially ligaments (structures connecting bones) that attach to the top and bottom of each vertebra. They act as a fulcrum point for movement between vertebral bodies.

Common Disc Problems

• A disc “bulge” results from slight tears in the outermost fibers of an annulus fibrosis. These small tears can be painful for a short time.
• A disc protrusion/extrusion, also called “disc herniation,” is a more significant injury. It results from a complete or significant tear of the fibers of an annulus-when some of the nucleus leaks through. A herniation can also be painful and may even cause nerve compression. In the most severe cases, the spinal cord can become compressed.
• The most common disc problem suffered by adults is degenerative disc disease. This occurs when the disc nucleus loses water and small tears develop in it. The body then forms osteophytes (bone spurs), along the edges of the vertebra and the disc space narrows. We used to believe that this was a function of “wear and tear” as we aged. The most recent evidence shows that, most often, there is a hereditary link to the development of degenerative disc disease. Degenerative disc disease can also be caused by trauma/injury.

Signs and Symptoms of Disc Problems 

Common signs of disc problems include, but are not limited to:

How do you Treat a Herniated Disc?

Luckily, in most circumstances, disc problems are easily treated with conservative interventions. Early in the course of an acute injury, the goal is to maintain mobility and manage inflammation. Both ice and heat have shown effectiveness in managing the pain of an acute low-back injury.

Getting you back on your feet and moving as quickly as is safely possible is critical. Typically, the less time you spend in bed, the better off you are in terms of long-term results. You’ll also need to learn not to be afraid to move. If you “baby” your back, in most cases, the long-term results will be worse. 

Chiropractic spinal manipulation has also been shown to be a safe and effective tool in the management of disc problems. Manipulation is especially effective when combined with therapeutic exercise. In most circumstances, spine surgery and injections are not necessary. 

Prevention of Disc Problems

While regular exercise will help strengthen your back, research has demonstrated that staying fit and using proper body mechanics alone will not prevent injury.  The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that individuals do not regularly lift more than 50 lbs. Further, activities that require awkward or prolonged postures and repetitive stresses, place individuals at higher risk for musculoskeletal disorders and disc problems regardless of body mechanics and fitness level. 

Your doctor of chiropractic can conduct an ergonomic assessment of your work and home activities to help you prevent injury. It is also critically important to have “spinal awareness.” Make a conscious effort, for example, to be aware of what posture you are maintaining when you sit, stand, lie down, work, and exercise. Lift objects with proper posture keeping the object close to your body, keeping your back straight, and lifting with your legs. Never lift an object by bending over and twisting.