Talk to me about discs

So, the good news is I sat my horse’s HUGE spook/buck/bolt a couple of weeks ago. The bad news is that seems to have resulted in a herniated disk (L4-L5?). I saw my PCP last week who I generally like but basically said, ‘yup, that’s a disc, go see this chiropractor’. I have an appointment with him this coming week, and I’ve been doing stretches and being careful how I move in the meantime. I’ve improved a lot so far, which is encouraging, but I feel like I have a long way to go before I’m back to riding and my other activities. Anyone care to share your experiences? I’m sure it varies but I’d love to have a better idea of what to expect in terms of recovery and resuming riding etc. TIA!

Ask for an MRI. I just got one last week for my back. I’m still waiting to hear back… I have been guarding my back for the last couple weeks…


I can’t imagine why a PCP would refer you to a chiropractor. That’s not the first place I would go…thinking orthopedic doctor or physical therapist first.

What kind of evaluation was done to diagnose? How do you know the disk is herniated? As for stretching - how do you know which way to stretch if you haven’t had a full evaluation of the injury?

I don’t disagree that an MRI is a useful tool. It’s not the only tool. I’d be very wary of a chiropractic adjustment without more diagnostics.

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This absolutely yes.

Discs do heal but it is a months long process… at least it was for me.

I agree with the others in that chiropractor would not be my first choice.

I did go to a chiropractor for each of my herniated discs (I have had 2). First one the first adjustment did provide some pain relief (to the point I wasn’t crying trying to move)…then no help at all. Of course chiropractor is telling me I will need to do 3x a week for “a while”. Well that is clear. No thanks. That disc did heal in about 4-5 months with physical therapy and some extensive 2x/week deep tissue massage to get the muscles to let go and stay that way. The foot numbness I had on that side took nearly a year to resolve. Luckily I didn’t have foot drop.

Fast forward 25 years and I oops, I did it again.
Different disc and opposite side. I did it all the same stuff…physical therapy, massage, and the chiropractor. The chiropractor didn’t help at all and I got tired of feeling like I had been mugged after each adjustment. 6 months in and tired of the near constant sciatica, I had a microdiscectomy with good results.

I don’t think an MRI right out of the box is necessary. But I would get a good physical therapy plan and follow that 1st. If no improvement or worsening, then an MRI to see what is going on.

Good luck.

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Thanks everyone for your feedback - I was also surprised that he recommended a chiropractor, but he recommended a specific person that he spoke highly of and that he’s worked closely with for years. I’ll mull over if I’m going keep that appointment or not. My PCP didn’t do a full evaluation but the diagnosis was made based on my symptoms. My understanding from what the PCP told me is that the chiro would be doing a full evaluation which may or may not lead to an adjustment, might lead to a PT referral etc, but maybe that was me projecting my assumptions. He did bring up the idea of a MRI but felt that it wasn’t indicated at this point. I do suspect I need PT - my core is pretty weak.

An MRI is the only way to diagnose a herniated disc. If you have a herniated disc I would bite the bullet and stay out of the saddle until the pain lessens considerably. I pushed through way too long with one in my 20’s and it took YEARS to be ok. I got so bad there were days I would get stuck and not being able to move…sometimes walking I would get frozen for a bit and other times I would end up on the floor. When I finally quit riding and just focused on core work I started to improve. I did not have good luck with PT, chiro, acupuncture etc…figuring out what worked for my body as far as exercises went, and lots of ice, was the key for me. FYI I herniated mine over 20 years ago and still can have pain from time to time. Take care of you back!

I agree with posts above, I wouldn’t go to a chiropractor until getting a more conclusive diagnosis. And don’t just avoid riding, avoid carrying anything heavy!

AND, (yes, I’m trying to scare you) speaking as someone who has done permanent damage to my back with a “work through the pain” attitude, don’t ignore this issue as I did. Now my lower back has no decent discs. I live with a cane next to my bed for when I wake up unable to walk without. Fortunately that only lasts a day or two and doesn’t happen often. If I’d known then what I know now… :crazy_face:

Not all physical therapists are the same. After I had most of my cervical vertebrae surgically fused it took me two tries to find one that put me on the right program. She was amazing, the work was nothing like the first PT.


Another anti-chiropractor vote. But I am very pro-physical therapy–I’d start there.


I’ve herniated the disc at L5-L6 five times now in the last 3.5 years. I’ve done physio each time, but I would not suggest chiro right off the bat. At this point, I have the exercises down pat. To get the disc back into place, do cobra stretches standing or lying down 10x per hour. You’d be really surprised how fast the disc will go back into place. Usually I can get mine back in 1-2 days now.

There’s a tonne of other exercises that help in the aftermath and massage can help too. If you want any insight - give me a PM.

The last time I herniated my disc was actually only 2 months ago and I’m still recovering from it. The pain in my back transferred into my hips, which has never happened before. After being looked over by my osteo and my physio, I was sent to a podiatrist. Turns out my legs are two very different lengths (0.5" off), which is what’s throwing my back out.

I hope yours is just a one off! Good luck with healing.

I would never suggest that someone DIY at home. That is a gamble unless you know how/where you have a bulge or herniated disk, and in what direction. What works for one person’s back does not work for everyone. This is why having someone evaluate the injury is important; it’s hard to know what it means to “push past the stuck” position and/or pain level.

I’m surprised you’ve herniated your back 5 times in 3 years and no one evaluated further for a cause to prevent it from happening again. It certainly can be from asymmetry in your body but typically is also from weak core. I hope your PT has you doing core work all the time now, not just when you’re injured.

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You are right - I edited that part out. I have needed to do DIY for all of my herniated discs after the first one as I cannot manage sitting in a car or barely walking until the disc was back into place. Maybe that is not the same with other people’s experiences.

The herniated discs that I have had are not caused by a weak core, but I realize that is often the cause for most people. I do yoga 5x a week and ride my horse 4-5x a week plus I enjoy running when the mosquitos aren’t trying to carry me off. Each of the different physios I have had (unfortunately up to 3 now due to different circumstances) have been satisfied with the core work I did past the exercises I was given. The differential in my leg lengths are causing a lot of problems in my pelvis and left (longer) leg.

OP I wish you good luck - I hope you get to physio and get it back into place. As someone with “chronic” disc problems, I know how debilitating it can be.

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When the mosquitoes aren’t trying to carry you off??? I died!!! :rofl::rofl::rofl:

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No, I understand the DIY part after a diagnosis. I was just commenting that before someone knows which disc(s) are affected and/or which direction they are bulging, it may not be smart to try this at home, especially pushing past the point of it being stuck or pushing through pain. Once you have a dx it is different. Most PTs will assign at home stretching after they have supervised it in person to make sure you do it correctly.

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