This article will discuss the structure, function, disorders, and treatments for common disc conditions.

by: Dr. David Futral

The intervertebral disc is a cartilaginous structure that sits between each vertebrae. It is made up of annular fibers which wrap around in concentric fashion to provide structure, strength, and stability to the disc. In the center of those fibers lies the nucleus pulposus. This gel-like structure provides shock absorption and nutrients to the surrounding tissue.

Functionally, the intervertebral disc is vital to the spine. For example, it cushions the spine throughout our vigorous daily activities; it distributes the weight of the body across the spine so as to decrease stress in one area; it provides elasticity and mobility to an otherwise rigid bony structure of the spine. Additionally, the disc maintains a space between the vertebrae thereby preventing spinal nerves from being compressed as they exit the spinal cord and travel to their destination.

Common disorders of the disc can include: disc degeneration and disc herniation. Degenerative disc disease is a condition in which the disc, over time, loses its elasticity and flexibility. This leads to stiffness, immobility, pain, and potentially impingement of the spinal nerves.

Disc herniations occur when the nucleus pulposus pushes outward beyond its normal boundaries. Disc herniations, also called disc bulges, are classified by the degree the annular fibers and nucleus pulposus are damaged. If the annular fibers are intact and the nucleus pulposus is contained yet pushing out, it is generally referred to as a disc protrusion. When the gel-like material from the nucleus pulposus squeezes through tears in the annular fibers but is still contained within the disc, it is classified as a disc extrusion. If some of the nucleus pulposus squeezes out of the disc and separates itself, it is classified as a disc sequestration.

Treatment options vary depending on the severity of the disc disorder. Conservative options such as chiropractic, physical therapy, laser therapy, and spinal decompression are great options. More invasive options such as epidural injections and surgery may be necessary depending on the degree of the disc herniation, but are usually utilized only if conservative treatments are not producing relief.

It is always best to consult with a medical professional to determine the problem and put together treatment options that will be the best for you. If you are experiencing, give our office a call and we can assess the cause and lay out the treatment options that will best serve you.

Yours in health,
Dr. David Futral