The Body Worx – Disc Injuries
The spinal column is made up of bony vertebrae that are separated by the intervertebral discs. These discs act as shock absorbers for the spine and also maintain a healthy distance between the vertebrae to allow the nerves to exit the spinal cord. The discs lie in close proximity to the spinal cord and, therefore, any damage to the discs can cause pressure on the spinal cord. This can lead to pain radiating along the nerves, into your arms or legs. More serious disc damage can put pressure directly on the spinal cord and this may require surgery.
Whenever I discuss disc damage with clients there always seems to be a sense of fear. I guess we’ve all heard of people with ‘damaged discs’ who were crippled with pain. Whilst this can occur it is not the commonest form of disc damage. Disc damage is a gradual, progressive issue and often starts with mild damage that can cause pain for a few hours but resolves spontaneously. Although the pain diminishes the damage is still there – your body has just learnt to protect you from the pain. As the problem gets worse you experience more frequent and more severe bouts of pain. Ultimately, the disc can exhibit marked damage that can be excruciating and completely disabling. Most of the disc injuries we see are at the early to mid-stage of development and respond well to our Osteopathic approach. If handled correctly these clients can return to normal activities, stronger and with confidence. We would encourage a strengthening exercise program tailored to the individual to ensure that the weaker areas are better supported thereby easing the fear of further disc damage and further pain.
The intervertebral disc is a little like an egg. It has a hard outer casing within which there is fluid.However, unlike a chicken’s egg the outer casing of the disc is thick – about 1/3 the diameter of the disc. Damage to this outer casing occurs from the inside out. The early twangs of pain are due to cracks forming in the disc and signs of it gradually weakening. At this stage we call it a herniated disc. If the crack continues it can work it’s way to the outside of the shell and the shell bulges due to pressure of the fluid behind the weakened shell. This is called a bulging disc. If the damage continues then, ultimately, the shell will crack open and the fluid can ooze out. This is called a prolapsed disc and these severe cases lead to the crippling pain and disability experienced by extreme disc damage.