Is Your Spine Healthy?
What Causes Spinal Disc Problems?
Spinal intervertebral disc problems primarily occur as a result of two situations:
Repetitive stress and strain over time
Examples of repetitive stress/strain that can initiate disc problems include:
Repeated improper lifting and bending
Poor workstation ergonomics
Prolonged standing or sitting with poor posture
Healthy Spinal Disc
Intervertebral discs are the strong, flexible cushions that separate each spinal bone or vertebrae. The principle functions of the disc are to allow for spinal flexibility and to act as shock absorbers transferring loads from one vertebra to the next. The spinal disc has a gellike center called the nucleus pulposus and an elastic outer ring called the annulus fibrosus. Two spinal vertebrae united by a healthy disc can move in virtually any direction. A healthy disc is over 70% water and can sustain significant weight.
Internal Disc Derangement
With repeated stress over time, the internal structure of the disc can wear down and degrade allowing the nucleus pulposus to leak into the outer annulus
fibrosus. This is a progressive, inflammatory/biochemical process that usually precedes a disc protrusion/herniation or degenerative disc disease. In most cases pain is not perceived until the nucleus pulposus leaks into the outer third of the annulus fibrosus. Loss of disc height or disc narrowing can occur with internal disc derangement. This pain can be severe and is due to stimulation of microscopic pain nerves called nociceptors in the outer third of the disc. The nociceptors are stimulated by inflammatory biochemicals produced by the body in response to repeated stress or injury.
A disc protrusion or herniation occurs when the nucleus pulposus pushes through the annulus fibrosus. A disc protrusion/herniation rarely occurs in a
healthy disc. It most commonly occurs in spinal discs that have already reached the point of internal disc derangement. The pain and inflammation associated with an acute disc protrusion/herniation can be quite severe. In some cases of disc protrusion/herniation, the adjacent spinal nerve will get pinched or compressed. This can cause leg or arm pain, numbness and/or weakness.
Degenerative Disc Disease
This is what most people refer to as osteoarthritis, commonly seen later in life.
However, it is very likely that internal disc derangement precedes degenerative disc disease. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of joint disease for which billions of dollars are spent annually in its treatment and for lost days of work.
The Chiropractic treatment approach to spinal disc problems includes manual procedures, therapy and advice such as:
Chiropractic spinal and extremity adjustments or manipulation: Adjustments are vitally important because they correct biomechanical joint restrictions that are almost always present when there is a spinal disc problem.
Physiotherapy: The primary purpose of physiotherapy is to reduce acute pain,
inflammation and muscle spasm. Muscle/soft tissue techniques: These help to
reduce pain, muscle tightness/spasm, and improve muscle function.
Therapeutic exercises: These are utilized early in your care before undertaking a comprehensive exercise program. Specific “low tech” rehabilitation exercises and assisted stretches are recommended to regain core stability; strengthen weak/inhibited muscles; improve flexibility, range of motion and balance; and prevent re-injury.
Diet and supplementation suggestions: An anti-inflammatory diet with appropriate supplementation can reduce pain and the inflammation that drives
Lifestyle modifications: Your present lifestyle, including activities of daily living, work-station set-up, leisure activities, exercise routine, sleeping habits and lifting technique may be contributing to your disc problem.