What Are The Signs of Spinal Disc Disorders?
Anyone who has ever had a spinal disc disorder knows how traumatic it can be. Simple actions can seem to aggravate the situation causing debilitating pain in the neck or back. As time goes on and the condition advances, there may be shooting pain that goes down the arms or legs. Some say the pain can be so intense that it can “drop you to your knees” or “wake you up at night.”
This discomfort is a warning sign that should not be ignored. This is a serious progressive problem that will only get worse over time and can lead to a more severe spinal condition in the future. If identified early, there are some simple exercises and treatments that can be utilized to stop the pain and slow down the degenerative process to avoid a life of pain management or surgery.
The human spine is composed of 24 individual vertebrae and a bony structure called the sacrum at the base. In between each of the vertebra are rubbery pads called Intervertebral discs that serve as shock absorbers for the spine. The spinal discs help keep pressure off the nerves that exit the spine. Each disc is a one-inch-diameter, one-quarter-inch-thick flat circular capsule. They have an elastic core that is called the nucleus pulposus and a tough, fibrous outer membrane called the annulus fibrosus.
The discs are tightly lodged between the vertebrae and kept in place by ligaments that bind the vertebral bones to the surrounding muscle sheaths. Discs have very little space to slip or transfer, if at all. So the term “slipped disc” is really a misnomer. Joints that stick out like curved wings on either side and in the back of the vertebrae are called facet joints. These facet joints are encapsulated synovial joints that allow for motion within the spine. The facet joints also prevent the vertebrae from overly bending or twisting, which could injure the spinal cord.
The discs separate the vertebrae and prevent them from rubbing against each other, but they are far from springy. They start as gel or fluid-filled sacs in infants, but as they get older, they begin to solidify. The disc’s blood flow has ceased by early adulthood, the flexible inner material has started to harden, and the disc has become less elastic. The discs are rugged and unyielding by middle age, with the consistency of a piece of hard rubber. The outer protective coating of the discs becomes thinner due to changes from aging, rendering them more vulnerable to injury.
What is Disc Herniation?
When a disc is stressed, the inner material will swell and push through the tough outer membrane. The disc as a whole can become distorted or bulge in places. Following an injury, all or part of the core material can protrude through a weak spot in the outer casing, pressing against nearby nerves. If the membrane ruptures or breaks due to further action or injury, the disc material can extrude, even more, placing pressure on the spinal cord or the nerves that radiate from it. This could cause excruciating pain. There could be spasms in your back or neck at first, which can severely restrict your movement. If your nerves are affected, you can also feel pain in your leg or arm.
The vast majority of disc issues occur in the lower back. The upper spine is involved in just 10% of these injuries. However, not all herniated discs press on nerves, and deformed discs may exist without causing pain or discomfort.
Herniated discs are most common in both men and women between the ages of 30 and 50, but they can also affect active children and teenagers. The problem is also less likely to affect older people whose discs no longer have fluid cores. Adults who engage in routine, moderate exercise are much less likely than sedentary adults to develop degenerative disc disorder. People who exercise tend to be more flexible over a more extended period. Maintaining a healthy body weight is also essential for avoiding back problems.
What Causes a Disc to Herniate?
While a violent accident can harm a disc, most problems with discs are caused by the natural aging process or daily activities like lifting heavy items the wrong way, stretching too far during a tennis activity, or slipping and falling on an icy sidewalk. These events, especially if disc material extrudes, can cause the fibrous outer covering of the disc to split or distort to the point where it presses on a spinal nerve or spinal cord. A disc can swell, tear, or degenerate for no apparent reason at times. This can be due to postural issues or a scoliosis that creates abnormal pressure on the spinal discs. In addition, Because limited vertebral mobility can starve and weaken the disc of vital nutrients that can eventually lead to a herniation.
What is Degenerative Disc Disease
How Can Disc Disorders be Treated?
There are treatments for disc disorders such as:
– Spinal decompression
– Physical rehabilitation
– Chiropractic care
– Stem cell therapy
These treatments alone or in combination can help reduce pain and improve function for disc disorders. Treating disc disorders starts with a consultation with the medical providers at Synergy Medical. A consultation and examination will determine which treatment is right for you and your condition.