Allen Chiropractic



The spine, or vertebral column, is made up of a series of bony blocks, known as the vertebrae.

The spine is not a rigid structure – it is able to bend and twist because there are flexible, shock-absorbing cushions or discs between each of the vertebrae.

Each intervertebral disc is a flat, biscuit-shaped structure with a jelly-like centre called the nucleus and an extremely strong outer skin called the annulus.

What is a disc herniation?

Many people will have heard the term ‘slipped disc’ but this is a rather inaccurate name, as discs actually cannot slip. They can wear, split or herniate.

When this happens, usually following cumulative stress on the spine – most commonly involving bending, twisting or lifting – the strong fibres of the outer annulus can tear, allowing ‘leakage’ of the jelly-like nucleus out of the centre of the disc.

This is known as a disc herniation. This ‘leaked’ material may then cause irritation by pressing on the nerve that runs next to the disc.

Is it a common problem?

Contrary to popular belief, disc herniations are not a common problem. It is estimated that approximately 5% of patients who consult a physician with lower back pain do so as a result of a disc herniation. The annual incidence is only in the region of 0.1 – 0.5% of the general population between the ages of 24 and 64 years.

What are the symptoms?

The pain of a disc herniation can be very severe but classically, you will feel a greater intensity of pain in the leg, due to the nerve irritation, than that felt in the lower back. You may feel a degree of numbness or ‘pins and needles’ in the leg, sometimes also into the foot, and you may notice that some of the muscles in the leg become weaker. It is important to mention to your Chiropractor if you also experience any changes in bladder or bowel function or if you notice any numbness of the ‘saddle area’ (i.e. the area that would be in contact with a bicycle saddle when seated). These may be signs of a rare, but severe type of disc herniation.

Chiropractic Treatment

Chiropractors do treat disc herniations and many scientific studies have shown that a high proportion of patients find relief with this kind of treatment. It has also been shown that Chiropractic treatment is superior to the application of heat, exercises, postural education and also conventional physiotherapy.


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