23 Nov Overview of Disk Injury Treatment in Arizona
What is an intervertebral disc and how are they injured? Intervertebral discs are firm gel-like circular structures in between the vertebral bone bodies along the spine. Their function is to absorb the shock and stress of moving, and allow for smooth range of motion. Through continued use and physical exertion, the discs may sometimes experience more shear stress and pressure than the tissue can withstand, leading to a disc injury.
Intervertebral disc injuries can present in different ways, including degeneration, weakness, tear, rupture, and also compression of the spinal nerves (sciatica). These can result in symptoms of back pain, radiation of pain into the arms or legs, pain or numbness when bending over, or in association with increased chest pressure such as when coughing or sneezing. Numbness, tingling, and pinprick sensation may spread down an arm or leg, along the specific area supplied by a compressed nerve.
Certain factors can place individuals at greater risk for injuring a disc. These include lack of physical exercise, obesity, tobacco smoking, weak muscle tone, unsafe methods of lifting, or bad posture. It is important to provide your Doctor with as complete a history as possible, to determine any precipitating event that may have caused a disc to be injured. However, in many cases there may not be a risk factor identified.
Degenerative disc disease refers to the normally hydrated and spongy disc drying out with age, and this decreased elasticity can lead to increased risk of damage with a same amount of shear stress (or less). Degenerative changes also refer to the buildup of calcified deposits, or “bone spurs”, around the perimeter of the disc which can result in pain upon certain movements.
A disc protrusion, commonly referred to as a “slipped disc”, can occur as a result of the weakening of the normal fibrous ring of elastic tissue which surrounds the inner disc pulp. When this protective border is weakened or torn, the inner disc material can bulge outward from the intervertebral space- possibly leading to compression of a nearby nerve (called “sciatica”). This often results in numbness, pain, or muscle weakness. Seek evaluation with your Doctor if you are experiencing back discomfort and any nerve findings in your arms or legs.
Management of disc injury includes rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs), heat/cold packs, local steroid or pain injections, and exercise. Physical Therapy is a very effective component of the healing process. Chiropractic centers are also able to further tailor physcial therapy and other non-surgical, non-invasive treatment modalities to your individual disc injury. In severe cases, surgery is an option to remove part of the protruding disc, or cut away nearby bone and fuse two vertebrae together.