by Richard Hollis
Discs lie between the bones of the spinal column (vertebra), acting as shock absorbers and helping with movement. Disc injuries are a common cause of back pain – but because they are attached to the vertebra they do not slip – instead they degenerate, tear, bulge, prolapse or herniate.
The disc is made of two parts – a tough outer cartilage (annulus fibrosis) and a soft, jelly like inner portion (nucleus pulposus).
Most disc injuries that cause back pain start with a small tear or weakness in these outer fibres, which allows the soft material to bulge or swell out that area. This can cause lower back pain and often pressure or irritation on the sensitive nerve that passes close by. This nerve pressure results in pain travelling down the course of the nerve. An example of this is “sciatica”, this term comes from when pressure on the sciatic nerve causes pain in the back of the leg.
When the situation worsens the soft material pushes through more of the weak area, the nerve compression increases and more serious symptoms occur – e.g. pins and needles, numbness and muscle weakness associated with the particular nerve that is afflicted.
The worst types of disc problems occur when the soft material ruptures through and separates from the disc to float free. This is rare, but considered an emergency, involving the loss of control of the bladder or bowel.
Discs can, like any other joint, wear or degenerate – causing low back pain and occasionally nerve pressure too.
Treatment for Disc Conditions
The good news is that, apart from the most severe types, the majority of disc problems improve with appropriate treatment and stabilising exercises.
At Broadgate we take a multidisciplinary approach to treating disc problems, with the majority improving with a combination of chiropractic treatment and physiotherapy exercises. For those injuries that don’t improve, or those that cause the more severe neurological problems, can be investigated by one of our on-site specialists.
If you do have any of these symptoms then you must get them assessed by a qualified practitioner so that you can be advised of the best treatment for you.