For some time, back pain was thought to be the direct result of some type of disc problem. Patients who visited their physician for back pain were likely to be told they had a “slipped disc.” Conventional treatment for back problems, due to the disc theory, was to repair the affected disc with surgery. Today, we know that back pain does not equate to a disc problem and comfort can be restored without surgical intervention.
There are several components to the spine. At the center is the spinal cord itself, the trunk of the nervous system. Around the spinal cord are numerous bones, called vertebrae. The role of these bones is to protect the spinal cord and the nerves that branch off from it. In between vertebrae are discs, fibrous rings filled with a viscous fluid. Discs are necessary for the absorption of shock that occurs when we walk, run, and perform physical activities.
The two terms most commonly included in the discussion of disc problems are “herniated” and “bulging.” Often, the two are thought to be the same, but this is not the case. When a disc is described as bulging, this means that there are small tears to the fibers located on the outside of the gelatinous ring. Pain is the result of these tears. A disc that has become herniated is one in which larger tears have developed. These tears extend inward and pose the risk of leakage of the fluid inside the disc. Depending on the extent of damage, a herniated disc may severely compress nerves, leading to significant pain.
Disc problems are most often the result of degeneration. Research has shown the degenerative disc disease often runs in families, having genetic links. Degeneration, however, may also occur after an injury, even a minor one. When a disc wears down, fluid is lost from its center. This loss of hydration allows small tears to form. If not managed, degenerative disc disease leads to the narrowing of space between vertebrae.
People affected by disc problems may complain of general muscle weakness, tingling or numbness in limbs, pain, and stiffness. These and other symptoms may be improved with focused chiropractic care. Rest is a necessary factor in healing, but movement is also a vital component in treating degeneration. Chiropractic adjustments improve the nourishment of discs and reduce inflammation. Additionally, mobility and comfort may be increased with therapeutic massage or physical therapy exercises and stretches.
Eastside Spine & Injury in Milwaukie, Oregon offers conservative, gentle care. Call (503) 654-7400 to schedule your consultation and exam with our friendly team.