Can a Chiropractor Help a Herniated Disc? A Guide to the Best Way to Heal Your Disc Injury

It may have happened in an accident. It may be due to another injury.

Did you lift a heavy object incorrectly? Or maybe it’s been gradual wear-and-tear from aging.

Anyone can fall victim to the pain and suffering of a herniated disc.

The good news –– it doesn’t always mean a trip to the doctor. A visit to the chiropractor just might be the best choice.

Keep reading to learn all about disc injuries and how a chiropractor can help including:

  • When a chiropractor cannot fix a herniated disc
  • How long you should see a chiropractor for a herniated disc
  • At-home treatments for pain from a disc injury
  • And more

Table of Contents

Should You Go to a Chiropractor if You Have a Herniated Disc?

Yes, you should go to a chiropractor if you have a herniated disc. 

In fact, the chiropractor is the perfect place to start if you even suspect you may have a herniated disc. 

By starting with a chiropractor to assess a disc injury, you have the option of beginning with a more conservative course of treatment before turning to medication or surgery. 

You might also be asking yourself, “Can a chiropractor make a herniated disc worse?”

A study in the European Spine Journal showed that conservative chiropractic care is safe for herniated discs. 

Depending on the disc injury, even mild disc herniations and protrusions can respond very well to conservative care such as …

  • Acupuncture 
  • Massage therapy; and
  • Chiropractic adjustments

How Does a Chiropractor Diagnose a Herniated Disc?

Assessment is important in treating disc injuries.

If you’re experiencing numbness, tingling, and weakness in your: 

  • Arms
  • Legs; and 
  • Feet

… with a defined pathway, you should probably see a chiropractor to assess your disc injury.

A visit to a chiropractor would start much like a visit to your primary care physician, with an overall health assessment of your spine to determine the cause of your …

  • Pain 
  • Stiffness; or 
  • Inflammation 

… to properly diagnose a herniated disc.

Your chiropractor may want to look at any imaging that has already been done or order additional imaging to analyze the extent of your disc’s damage.

The scale of injury may present almost identical across the board.

You may have anything from very mild, microscopic tears to full-blown disc herniation, the difference lies in how the injury responds to care.

After the diagnosis has been made and problem areas have been identified, your chiropractor will create a treatment plan designed to best respond to your injury.

When Can a Chiropractor Not Fix a Herniated Disc?

A severe disc injury may not respond to chiropractic treatment. 

Signs that more aggressive treatment options are needed also include:

  • Loss of reflexes
  • Loss of muscle strength; and 
  • Loss of sensation

And having other conditions like …

  • High risk of stroke
  • Advanced osteoporosis
  • Spinal cancer; or
  • Bone abnormalities in the upper neck 

… may rule out chiropractic care for some patients with severe disc injuries.

If you are under chiropractic care for three to four weeks and are not seeing improvement –– or the symptoms are getting worse –– additional medical professionals should be added to the care team through imaging (X-ray or MRI) and referral to a neurosurgeon.

Nevertheless, if you suspect you have a disc injury, a chiropractor is the best medical care to start with if you’d like to heal your herniated disc without medication or surgery.

Therapia Wellness Clinic here in SW Portland specializes in helping heal acute injuries like herniated discs in addition to aiding patients to improve their overall wellness.

5 Ways a Chiropractor Can Help With a Herniated Disc

If you’d prefer to explore a more conservative course of action for your herniated disc, there are a few ways that seeing a chiropractor can help.

After the chiropractor …

  1. Examines the spine which may include imaging
  2. Completes a thorough assessment of the injury; and 
  3. Confirms the diagnosis of a herniated disc

… a personalized treatment plan is developed and discussed with the patient.

Common chiropractic plans for herniated disc patients often include these five treatments:

  1. Regular chiropractic adjustments
  2. Soft tissue therapy
  3. Massage therapy
  4. Acupuncture
  5. McKenzie Protocols 

#1: Regular Chiropractic Adjustments

Your chiropractor may determine spinal manipulation as a beneficial part of your treatment plan.

These two methods are most commonly used on herniated disc patients and might just be the healing technique you need.

Flexion-Distraction Technique

The flexion-distraction spinal adjustment technique reduces the pressure on your discs by lightly applying force onto the affected area with a pumping rhythm.

A specialized table allows your chiropractor to stretch your spine and move the herniated disc away from the affected nerve.

This gentle, pain-free force alleviates your symptoms and is a great option for patients who suffer from severe pain.

Pelvic Blocking Treatments

During pelvic blocking treatments, your chiropractor utilizes cushioned wedges specially made for chiropractic use under both sides of your pelvis. 

This method allows the wedges to naturally draw your herniated disc away from the affected nerve.

Pelvic blocking treatments are also used to treat:

  • Disc injuries
  • Headaches; and 
  • Other bodily pain

#2: Soft Tissue Therapy

Soft tissue therapy is another modality your chiropractor may use to help heal your herniated disc.

The Graston Technique, often used by …

  • Chiropractors
  • Physical therapists
  • Osteopathic doctors
  • Athletic trainers; and 
  • Massage therapists 

utilizes specialized instruments to massage the skin to identify areas of restriction in your body. 

The Graston Technique can also be used to:

  • Soften fascia restrictions associated with chronic soft tissue injuries
  • Break down scar tissue; and
  • Stretch connective tissues

#3: Massage Therapy

Your chiropractor may add massage therapy as a useful tool to your treatment plan to release muscles and connective tissue.

According to a recent study in Biomedical Research, massage therapy should be included as part of the treatment plan to achieve comprehensive rehabilitation of a herniated disc. 

Among the many different types of massage therapy, deep tissue massage can best address disc injuries.

Deep tissue massage utilizes pressure to release deep tension and spasms that have developed to restrict muscle motion in the problem area.

It may also release the nerve root, reducing inflammation and relaxing the surrounding muscles. 

At Therapia Wellness Clinic, we offer a variety of services outside of chiropractic care.

Our integrated approach to care means we can also offer both massage and acupuncture in-house to address your disc injury holistically.

Book an appointment today to ensure you are receiving the comprehensive care you need for your healing. 

#4: Acupuncture

Acupuncture works by targeting specific points in the body with thin, pre-sterilized disposable needles to promote health, and alleviate pain and other medical issues. 

According to the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) research concludes that warm needle acupuncture is a highly effective tool in the treatment of disc injuries. 

Another study also found that acupuncture is effective in treating inflammation and post-operative pain for lumbar disc herniations.

#5: McKenzie Protocols

McKenzie Protocols or The McKenzie Method of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT) is the leading globally-recognized method of injury assessment and management for patients with spinal and extremity problems. 

Your chiropractor may use MDT to determine appropriate … 

  • Exercises
  • Postural advice
  • Sleeping modifications; and 
  • Workstation ergonomics

… that can be performed at home to relieve pain and increase mobility.

Utilizing McKenzie Protocols can help eradicate pain and promote the healing of disc injuries in a majority of patients.

How Long Should You See a Chiropractor for a Herniated Disc?

The length of time you should see a chiropractor for a herniated disc will depend on your disc injury and how it responds to care. 

However, if you don’t experience any improvement after three to four weeks, it may be time to consider another method of care. 

Still, most patients (especially those with mild disc injuries) will respond to chiropractic care –– but some may take longer than others.

If you have a history of disc injury, you may want to consider making chiropractic care a part of your long-term routine. 

As the injury heals, you will need less frequent visits but should continue for monitoring at an interval determined by your chiropractor.

At-Home Treatments for Pain From Disc Injury That Your Chiropractor May Recommend

In addition to McKenzie Protocols other at-home treatments that can help relieve pain from your disc injury include:

  • Hot/cold treatment
  • Myofascial release exercises
  • Gentle stretching and traction
  • Low impact physical activity

Looking for a SW Portland Chiropractor to Help a Herniated Disc? Contact Therapia Wellness Clinic

Chiropractors are experts at working with lower-back pain.

If you suspect a disc injury is the root cause of your pain and suffering a chiropractor can offer conservative, non-surgical options for recovery.

At Therapia Wellness Clinic our chiropractors will evaluate your disc injury, and together with our staff specializing in …

  • Massage therapy
  • Chinese therapy medicine; and
  • Acupuncture

… create a holistic personalized treatment plan to help you heal naturally and relieve your pain.

We help patients with a variety of concerns, so if you’re in the SW Portland area contact our talented trained professionals today.