Our spine is formed by 33 interlocking bones that are called “vertebrae” and a disc is located between each pair of vertebrae. This disc is composed of connective tissue that surrounds a soft, jellylike center.
The main function of discs is to absorb the shock and provide flexibility within the spine.
The intervertebral discs have the following functions:
- They arrange for cushioning for the vertebrae and lessen the stress caused by impact. By separating the vertebrae from each other, they act as a form of shock absorber for the spine.
- They help keep the nerves that run down the spine and between the vertebrae.
- They increase the elasticity of the spine and tolerate us to bend over at the waist without rubbing the vertebrae into each other.
What are the main categories of spinal disc injuries?
Despite the fact that there are lots of terms used to describe disc problems, there really are only two main categories of disc problems:
- Degenerative Disc Disease
- Herniated Disc
Here’s the detailed overview of these disc problems:
What are the symptoms, causes & treatments of Degenerative Disc Disease?
If the pain creates within the spinal disc itself, the patient will experience both axial and referred pain. This problem can occur as part of the aging process in which the discs in the spine start to dry out, thereby displacing some of their flexibility and shock absorption function. As part of this course, the inner portion of the disc shrinks, providing not as much of cushioning between the bony vertebrae in the spine, and the outer part of the disc can ache small tears, all of which can cause pain.
The most common symptom of Degenerative Disc Disease is a severe pain in the neck and back that remains constant all the time. The individual patient symptoms may vary depending on the degree of damage to the spinal disc and other changes that this damaged disc has caused.
Below are the signs associated with the pain:
- Pain occurs in the lower back, backsides, or upper thighs.
- The pain usually comes and then goes lasting for a few days to months. It can become distressing or severe.
- It feels worse when sitting, bending, lifting, or twisting and restored when moving and walking.
- It gets improved when the patient changes positions or when he/she lies down.
Sometimes, the patient feels numbness or tingling in arms and legs. Degenerative Disc Disease also weakens the leg muscles.
As already mentioned that the spinal discs contain soft inner core (jellylike) and hard outer surface (connective tissue) and they change in different ways causing Degenerative Disc Disease.
They can dry out: At the time, we born, the discs in our spine usually contain water. When we grow older, spinal discs lose this water and as a result, get thinner. Thin, flatter discs can’t absorb the shocks and maintain padding between the vertebrae. This condition leads to various spinal problems that cause pain.
They can crack out: With the passage of years, daily movements and minor injuries cause tiny tears to develop in the outer wall of the spinal disc that contains nerves. When these tears develop near the nerves, they can cause pain. In case, the disc wall breaks down, the inner soft core pushes over the cracks causing the disc to become swell or slip out of its place. This condition of a slipped disc is called herniated or slipped disc.
The best chiropractic treatments for Degenerative Disc Disease are aimed to stop further damage to the disc and ease the pain. The chiropractor devises a comprehensive treatment plan that is customized according to the symptoms and condition of the individual patient.
- Medication: Over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin and ibuprofen help to bout the swelling. They can decrease swelling and relieve the pain. Depending on the condition of the patient, the doctor may prescribe a stronger drug to ease the pain. The Degenerative Disc Disease may also lead to the condition, called muscle spasms, so the doctor also recommends medicine to help dismiss them.
- Physical therapy: During the physical therapy, different movements have devised that help to make the back and neck muscles more flexible and strong, thus supporting the spine. Most of the patients may get long-term relief with medications and physical therapy.
- Steroid shots: These are the strong medications that are prescribed to ease the pain, distension, and inflammation. A steroid shot is usually suggested to be given in the epidural space in the back (a fluid-filled area around the spinal cord) or it can also be given in the nerve or muscle.
- Surgery: If the other treatment options didn’t give relieve the pain, the doctor then recommends surgery. Usually, a surgical procedure, called Discectomy, is performed in which the injured part of the vertebral disc is removed. Depending on the condition of the disc problem, the chiropractic surgeon may also remove the whole vertebral disc and place an artificial one, or if the case is more severe, the spinal bones are permanently connected with each other after removing the disc.
What are the symptoms, causes & treatments for Herniated Disc?
If a disc problem is producing nerve root pain, or pain that travels along with one of the nerves that exit the spine, it is called radicular pain. This can occur if the inner material of the disc, the soft nucleus, leaks out of the disc (or “herniates”) and dashes the nerve root. The material within the disc is highly inflammatory, and any interaction with a nerve can cause pain. Most commonly, Herniated Discs occur in the lower back (called, lumbar spine) and they can also occur in the neck (called, cervical spine).
The common signs and symptoms of herniated disc include:
- Pain in arm or leg: The patient feels severe pain in buttocks, thighs, calves, and some part of the foot if the herniated disc is located in the lower Similarly, the patient feels intense pain in shoulder and arm if the herniated disc is located in the neck. This pain may also sprout into the arms or legs when the patient sneezes, coughs, or moves his/her spine in certain positions.
- Numbness or tingling: The patients with a herniated disc also experience a feeling of numbness or tingling in that specific body part having the affected nerves.
- Weakness: The muscles that are served by the affected nerves due to a herniated disc problem, start becoming weak. As a result, the patient is unable to hold or lift items.
The most collective location for a herniated disc to occur is in the disc at the level between the fourth and fifth lumbar vertebrae in the low back. This area is continually gripping the impact of bearing the weight of the upper body. This is particularly important when we are standing or sitting. The lower back is also disapprovingly involved in our body’s movements throughout the day, as we twist the torso in rotating side to side and as we hinge the back in flexion and extension while bending or lifting.
Although the symptoms of Herniated Discs are very much painful the right chiropractic treatment options can relieve these symptoms. Usually, the recovery time for most of the patients experiencing the problem of a Herniated Disc is about 4 weeks.
In most of the cases, symptoms can be managed by eluding those specific movements that trigger pain, and by regularly following the exercise regime and taking medications regularly.
The treatment options for Herniated Discs include medication, physical therapy, and surgery.
Various medications are recommended depending on the condition of the individual patient. Some common medications include:
- Over-the-counter (OTC) medications: These help to relieve mild to moderate pain.
- Nerve pain medications: These help in relieving nerve pain.
- Narcotics: If OTC medicines don’t give relief, narcotics are prescribed. But, they may have some side effects such as sedation, nausea, and
- Cortisone injections: These are used to treat pain and inflammation in the affected area.
- Epidural injections: These contain anesthesia, steroids, and anti-inflammatory medications that treat swelling and pain in and around the spinal nerve roots. These are injected into epidural space (it is the area around the spinal cord).
- Muscle relaxants: These are given to reduce muscle spasms.
Physical therapy is used to reduce the pain caused by Herniated Disc with the help of different exercises. Along with exercises, physical therapists also recommend these:
- treating pain with ice or heat,
- ultrasound – it improves blood flow in the affected area,
- traction by using weights, ropes, and pulleys for putting force to tissues,
- bracing the neck or the lower back for a short time period to increase support, and
- electrotherapy – electric impulses might lessen the pain.
Visit Cruz Chiropractic & Wellness for the best treatment of spinal disc problems:
If you’re experiencing the symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease or Herniated Disc, you can consult Dr. Ashley Cruz, who is a board-certified chiropractor and practices chiropractic care at Cruz Chiropractic & Wellness – one of the best chiropractic centers in NYC. Dr. Cruz provides custom-made treatments for vertebral disc injuries and all kinds of spinal disc problems. For booking an online appointment, visit the website or call 212-967-1448