The human body is remarkably complex, and the bones of the spinal column have many structures that attach to them to play a role in the spine’s function. The spinal column is composed of 24 bones called vertebra and the pelvis that is made of 3 bones. Have you ever heard someone make a comment that they “slipped a disc” and wondered what they were talking about? Between the vertebra are intervertebral discs, or “discs.” The intervertebral discs are cartilaginous connective tissue that function to allow shock absorption and movement of the spinal column. These discs play a large role in spinal health and if they herniate (rupture) or degenerate (wear down) they may cause pain or other symptoms.
What is an Intervertebral Disc Herniation?
The intervertebral discs are composed of a firmer outside with a softer core. When part of the outer layer tears and allows the inner layers to push out of the disc, it is called a “herniation.” Herniated discs can be caused by a traumatic incident or can be caused by repeated small traumas, such as poor posture. When a disc herniates it will often cause inflammation that can lead to back or neck pain at the site of the injury. The tissue may also press out on the nerves that travel from the spinal column to the arms or legs. If this occurs symptoms may include numbness, tingling or pain radiating down an arm or leg. In severe cases, strength loss may also occur in the muscles that the affected nerves control. In some cases, the body will heal the symptoms of a disc herniation and after a period of time improve on their own. Also, conservative care such as chiropractic care, physical therapy or acupuncture may help to relieve symptoms. If conservative care doesn’t help, some cases may require surgery to remove the disc and/or stabilize the joint.
Degenerative Disc Disease
Another condition that can affect the discs is called “degenerative disc disease” (DDD) or “degeneration.” Another term for this is arthritis of the discs. This can occur due to a specific trauma such as a fall, car accident or lifting injury. These also may occur gradually over time due to poor posture or simply the aging process. When it comes to the disc the first stage of degeneration that occurs is a thinning of the disc. When this occurs it can cause abnormal spinal movement that may, over time, lead to bone spurs on the vertebra. In severe cases of degeneration, the discs become very thin and bone spurs may grow out and connect with the bone spurs of an adjacent vertebra. If the spurs connect to each other the vertebra have been fused together, and the spine will no longer be able to flex or extended at those spinal levels.
Chiropractic Care and Intervertebral Discs
If you are suffering from back pain or symptoms that radiate into your arm or leg, a chiropractic evaluation may be able to help determine the cause of symptoms. Our Sioux Falls chiropractors would like to meet with you and perform a chiropractic evaluation. Also, spinal imaging can be helpful as X-rays are great for finding degenerative discs and MRI is best when looking for disc herniation. If you would like to schedule an appointment or have questions, please contact us today!