Intervertebral Disc Issues
Have you ever experienced “sciatica”, “pinched nerves” or “slipped disc”?
Disc issues are very common and often present as a sharp pain, worse when bending, sitting, arising, or prolonged standing. Many people find relief while laying down, but the symptoms return anytime they change positions. You may have shooting pains going down one or both legs, with or without numbness, tingling and muscle weakness. At Body Elements Chiropractic, we excel at the diagnosis and treatment of these conditions.
What Is An Intervertebral Disc?
An intervertebral disc is a shock absorber between each of the vertebrae in the spinal column. There are a total of 24 discs in the human spine. The discs are made of fibrocartilaginous material. The outside of the disc is made of a strong material called the annulus fibrosis. The annulus is made of strong layers of collagen fibers woven together at varying angles. The annulus fibrosis gives structure to the disc and allows for even weight distribution of surrounding vertebrae. Inside this protective covering is a jelly-like substance known as the nucleus pulposus. As the spine receives pressure, the gel moves inside the annulus fibrosis and redistributes itself to absorb the impact of the pressure. As we age, the nucleus pulposus dries out (desiccation) causing the disc to lose height and absorb less shock. The outer layer(annulus fibrosis) of the intervertebral disc also deteriorates with age and can begin to rip or fray.
What Is Going On?
Disc injuries can be classified into several basic groups: Internal disc derangement, disc bulge and disc herniation. We are constantly subjecting our spine to compression and twisting forces as we go about our active lives. Gravity is constantly pulling on us and our discs begin to show signs of aging much like the rest of our body does. The dehydration of our
intervertebral discs makes them more brittle and susceptible to injury. We develop micro tears in the annulus fibrosis, loss of disc height, and changes in the curvature of our spines.
Often times, disc derangement presents as neck or back stiffness. It may cause a constant, deep, dull achy feeling and may cause muscles to become very tight or go into spasm. This typically lasts a few days to a week and then subsides until we “tweak” our back or neck again.
A disc bulge is a more severe form of the degeneration process. As the outer part of the disc experiences more and more tears, it weakens. The compressive and twisting forces applied to our spines as we go about our lives squeezes the soft nucleus pulposus out causing a bulge. The discs begin to pancake out and lose their original height. This process may compress the spinal cord or spinal nerves resulting in a condition known as stenosis. This presents as a burning, tingling, numbness (pins & needles) into parts of the body such as the arms, hand, thighs, legs and feet.
If further degeneration / damage occurs, the nucleus will push through the outer annulus. This is what is known as a disc herniation. Herniated discs take a very long time to heal (like any cartilaginous injury) due to a lack of blood supplying the oxygen and nutrients necessary for healing. Oddly enough, the larger the disc herniation, the faster it tends to reabsorb and heal.
A disc herniation can be a very serious condition. If you experience an inability to go to the bathroom or conversely loose the ability to control your bowel or bladder, GO TO THE E.R. RIGHT AWAY!
How Dr. Starnes Can Help?
A proper history and physical exam will determine what is injured and once we diagnose your problem (s), a specific treatment plan will be designed to get you pain free as fast as possible. Dr. Starnes has several treatment options available to reduce and eliminate your pain:
Spinal Decompression/Traction (PettibonTechnique)
Soft Tissue Therapy /KT tape / Trigger Point Therapy
Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization
Cold Laser / Low Level Laser