by Richard Hollis
We all know the term – ‘a slipped disc’. However this phrase is a little misleading, as discs don’t really slip at all. To understand what is actually happening we need to look at the composition of the spine in greater detail.
Lying between the bones of the spinal column (vertebra), are the discs. These discs act as shock absorbers and assist movement. The discs are in fact attached to the vertebra and not just balancing between them, which means they cannot simply slip out of place. Instead they degenerate, tear, bulge, prolapse or herniate, and when these conditions occur they can cause back pain.
The disc comprises of two parts – a tough outer cartilage (annulus fibrosis) and a soft, jelly like inner portion (nucleus pulposus).
The majority of disc injuries that cause back pain begin with a small tear or weakness in these outer fibres, allowing the soft material to bulge or swell out of the area. This can result in lower back pain. Additionally pressure or irritation on the sensitive nerve that passes close by, results in pain travelling down the course of the nerve. Sciatica is a condition that is caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve. This pressure results in pain travelling down the back of the leg.
If the situation is allowed to worsen, then soft material pushes out further, causing increased nerve compression and increased pain and other symptoms – e.g. pins and needles, numbness and muscle weakness.
One of the most painful type of disc conditions involves the soft material rupturing through completely and separating from the disc to float free. A rare condition, it is an emergency, that can exhibit symptoms such as the loss of bladder or bowel control.
A more common issue is the wear or degeneration of discs. This condition progresses slowly and causes lower back pain and occasionally nerve pressure.
Treating Disc Conditions
Now for the good news – apart from the most severe disc conditions, most issues will improve with the appropriate treatment and stabilising exercises.
Here at Broadgate we have a multidisciplinary approach to treating disc problems. In our experience the majority of symptoms improve by combining chiropractic treatment and physiotherapy exercises. If the injuries do not improve following this treatment, perhaps because they are caused by more severe neurological problems, we can refer the patient for further investigations by one of our on-site specialists.
If you are afflicted with any of these symptoms then it is important to get them assessed by a qualified practitioner so that the best treatment can be performed. Here at Broadgate Spine & Joint Clinic’s our team of experts can help. Call 020 7638 4330 now or email [email protected].
Further information about ‘a slipped disc’ can be found in Broadgate Spine’s Journal.