Disc Herniation and Injury
What is the Spinal Disc?
The spinal disc, or intervertebral disc, is a round, cushion-like ligament that connects one spinal bone (interverbrae) to an adjacent spinal bone. The spinal disc is one of the main ligaments that provides stability to the spine.
A young, healthy spinal disc is similar to a jelly donut with the jelly being the nucleus pulposus and the donut part being “leathery straps” called the annular fibrosus. When healthy, the disc is elastic and strong making it able to withstand force and prevent injury. Over time with stress, injury and degeneration the disc weakens and becomes more susceptible to injury. An injury to the spinal disc can cause a disc herniation.
What is a Disc Herniation?
A disc herniation occurs when a trauma creates a tear in the annular fibrosus, which allows the jelly-like nucleus pulposus to leak out. The disc herniation will cause pain, called discogenic pain, due to the tear in the ligament. If the disc herniation also creates pressure on the existing nerves or spinal cord, it can create pain down the arm or leg, such as sciatica. Sometimes, in severe cases, it can create a spinal cord compression, called a spinal myelopathy.
What is a Disc Bulge?
Another common spinal problem is called a disc bulge. A disc bulge is typically the result of wear and tear or degeneration over time. Disc bulges are common with spinal osteoarthritis. Many people with disc bulges have no pain or symptoms and do not even know that they have them.
How is a Disc Herniation diagnosed?
Many people with back and neck pain have disc herniations. Some cause severe, debilitating pain that travels down the arm or leg, and some cause only mild pain. A thorough case history, physical examination, and x-rays will allow the doctors to determine whether or not you have a disc herniation and the severity of it. Often MRI’s are ordered to confirm the presence of a disc herniation.
How is a Disc Herniation treated?
The severity and type of disc herniation will determine what type of care is needed. Some types, such as those involving spinal myelopathy or spinal cord compression, will require immediate referral for a surgical consultation with an orthopedic surgeon or neurosurgeon. Most herniations will be successfully treated with a combination of chiropractic, physical therapy, nutritional, and pharmacological interventions.
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