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Intervertebral Disc and AK

   The intervertebral disc acts as a cushion, or shock absorber between the vertebrae. It consists of two parts, a tough fibrous outer part and a softer inner part. Think of a jelly donut. Instead of a soft donut material on the outside, there is a tough cartilage formed by fibers cris-crossing each other, very tough and flexible. Instead of jelly, there is another material that is about the consistency of crab meat. The soft center behaves a little like fluid, creating a hydraulic shock absorber system. The flexibility and strength of the disc makes the spine mobile and able to withstand shock.

            Much lower back pain and back pain with accompanying pain down the leg (sciatica) is due to problems with or injury to the disc. Three ways the disc can be involve with back pain (with or without sciatica) are disc protrusion, disc herniation (or rupture), and disc degeneration. These disc problems can exist in the cervical (neck) and thoracic (mid back) spine, but they are more common in the low back.

 

Disc protrusion:

 

            Disc protrusion occurs when the tough outer part of the disc (also called the annulus fibrosis) is damaged or wears down, and pressure from the soft inner part of the disc (called the nucleus pulposis). The bulge often impinges on a nerve, causing back pain and possibly sciatica.

            In most cases this disc problem responds quite well to chiropractic care. It is important to make sure that, upon the resolution of pain, the muscles are strengthened and balanced. It is important to continue to strengthen after the pain is gone, because the disc is still prone to injury. If there is not adequate follow-up after the pain goes away, there could be a new injury, which is often worse than the original problem.

 

Ruptured or herniated intervertebral disc:

 

            This is a situation where the annulus fibrosis (the tough outer part of the disc) is completely torn and the nucleus pulposis (the soft, inner part of the disc) escapes. This is a situation that usually requires surgery. Conservative care will not work. Getting the nucleus pulposis back into the disc is a lot like putting toothpaste back into a tube.

            Diagnosis of a herniated disc can be accomplished by CT scan, myelogramor MRI. Fortunately a complete herniation is not common.

 

Degenerated intervertebral disc:

 

            Over time a disc can degenerate. It may be due to an old injury, longstanding subluxation, chronic muscle imbalance, genetic factors or poor nutrition. Motion is important to the health of the disc. There is no direct blood flow bringing nutrients to the disc. Nutrients diffuse out from the blood stream. Nutrition must be carried into the disc by fluid movement. Waste products are removed the same way. Movement of the spine ensures this fluid movement. If there is not adequate water or movement, the discs are not well nourished.  The disc can dehydrate and become thinner. This need for the spinal joint and disc for movement is why chronic subluxations or fixations of the spine can set the stage for disc degeneration.  

             If the disc becomes thinner, it is the beginning of osteo arthritis (the wear and tear type of arthritis) and disc degeneration. The space between the vertebrae becomes narrower, making the opening for the spinal nerve to become smaller. Frequently bone spurs are present, further irritating the nerve.

            Treatment with chiropractic and applied kinesiology should be begun as soon as possible. It will slow the progress of the degeneration by restoring normal motion to the spine.

            Balancing the body’s structure and chemistry utilizing applied kinesiologyand chiropractic can solve many health problems by addressing the cause. Please feel free to call our office to schedule a consultation to discuss this or any other health issues you may have.