Learning how a disc gets damaged is the first step towards the recovery of neck pain and back pain. Those with damaged spinal discs can relate to the agony it can cause. For most, even simple chores are aggravating factors. If you have a damaged spinal disc and frequently suffer flare-ups of pain, you need to take action. Targeted comprehensive therapy programs to reestablish disc hydration and repair can prevent years of suffering. In this article, we provide you an overview of how a disc gets damaged and what you can do to stop the degenerative process.
What is the function of spinal discs?
Spinal discs are circular or oval shaped rubbery cushions situated between the bones of your spine. Their primary function is weight-bearing, cushioning and a pivotal point that allows motion and mobility. In total there are 24 spinal discs. Your spine has five distinct regions:
- Cervical spine or the neck
- Thoracic Spine (upper and mid back)
- Lumbar spine or the lower back
- The Sacrum Coccyx
The cervical spine has seven bones and six spinal discs. The only segment not separated by a spinal disc is the C1-C2 (first and second spinal disc interspace. Thoracic spine has 12 bones (vertebrae), interconnected by 12 spinal discs, while the lumbar having five vertebrae and five spinal discs. The sacrum and coccyx (collectively called the tailbone) do not have spinal discs. Each disc is classified based on their connections to the vertebrae above and below. For example, the L4-L5 disc is a reference to the spinal disc positioned between the 4th and 5th lumbar segments.
Spinal discs attach via the endplate to the vertebrae. Each vertebra has two end-plates, one on top and another at the bottom. Endplates are about 1mm thick and provide the disc vertebrae attachment point as well as the nutritional needs of the disc. Events that lead to decreased nutrient flow are dominant steps in how a disc gets damaged.
What are the primary structures of the spinal disc?
Your spinal disc has two parts, the nucleus pulposus, and the annulus fibrosus. The nucleus pulposus is the softer inner part, while the annulus fibrosus ae the firmer outer fibers. The annulus fibrosis or the annular ligament functions as a ligament forming the disc-vertebrae connection and vertebra-to-vertebra attachment. The nucleus pulposus is the functional component that allows motion and shock absorbance. The nucleus also manufactures the ground substances or nutrients that it and the annulus need. A healthy spinal disc is strong enough to withstand even the most strenuous activity. However, some instances lead to the demise and deterioration of both the nucleus and annulus structures of the disc. Wear and tear of the nucleus or annulus are the contributing factors to how a disc gets damaged.
Why Discs Degenerate?
Some degrees of degenerative changes are normal as we age. However, far too many get disc degeneration early in life. Early degenerative changes are the result of premature wears and tears. It can be a poor posture, improper lifting, and lack of sleep or even inherited or congenital issues. Regardless of the cause, degenerative changes within a disc are always due to lack of nutrients. Unlike other ligaments, the spinal disc is avascular (has no direct blood supply). The daily nutritional needs are met through diffusion of blood from the end-plate into the disc. When disrupted, degenerative changes initiate. Aside from lack of blood flow into a disc, disc pressure or intradiscal pressure is another factor of vital importance.
The average pressure within a healthy spinal disc should be about 70mmgh. Intradiscal pressure exceeding 90mmgh is a precursor to disc degeneration. Nutrients get expelled when the pressure rises inside your spinal disc. As if this alone was not bad enough, inward diffusion decreases or worse stops simultaneously. In the section below, we have provided a video that describes the details of how a disc gets damaged. Please make sure you watch this informative video.
How is a disc problem Diagnosed?
Diagnosis of spinal disc issues is accomplished through physical examination. They may have you lift both legs and have you hold them up. Or, lift your leg to assess the possibility of disc damage. Clinicians will use a variety of assessments, testing for:
- Muscle weakness
- Nerve deficit (reflexes and neurological tests)
- Joint issues (orthopedic tests)
If your doctor suspects disc damage, he or she will refer you for diagnostic imaging:
- Spine X-rays
- CT Scan
- MRI or Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Plain spine X-rays were the first means of diagnosing spinal disc problems. Although still in use for spine issues, they are the least informative of spinal disc issues. Because the plain x-ray doesn’t visualize the disc. It merely reflects the space they occupy. X-rays are not the best tools to identify how a disc gets damaged or the degree of damage inflicted onto a spinal disc. A downfall of x-rays is its’ diagnostic limitations and radiation exposures.
CT scans or Computerized Tomography is better than the plain spine x-rays. However, they expose you to higher levels of radiation than do x-rays. CT scans are in essences a series of high-intensity x-rays from multiple angles combined to provide a three-dimensional overview of the spine. Although better than the plain x-ray, they are still limited in scope. The limitation of CT scan for spine issues is due to the limitations of visualizing spinal discs components.
MRI or Magnetic Resonance Imaging is the best diagnostic test for the spine; spinal discs damage including bulging discs, herniated discs, protruded discs, prolapsed and extruded or fragmented discs. It uses a strong magnetic field instead of the ionizing radiation used in CT scans or plain x-rays. In short, the MRI is the gold standard for diagnosing of spine related issues.
What are the contributing factors to Degenerative Disc Disease?
Degenerative Disc Disease or DDD is fast becoming the number one spine issue. Our modern lifestyle is the primary reason for degenerative changes in the spine. Sitting is perhaps the main culprit is a damaged spinal disc. Prolonged sitting or lying in poor posture are now proven reason to how a disc gets damaged.
Weakness in muscles and ligaments predisposes the spinal joint and spinal discs to higher levels of stress, causing them to wear out prematurely. Poor posture and prolonged sitting can impact anyone at any time. Medical research has established the fact that 20% of kids between 9-11 years of age have signs of disc damage. Repetitive movements, improper lifting, injuries and advancing of ones age are also factors in the development of spinal disc damage.
Aside from poor posture, prolonged sitting, injuries or the advancing of age; several factors predispose one to a damaged spinal disc. In short, some of us are more prone to developing spinal disc disorder because of:
- Familial history of a musculoskeletal disorder
- Congenital or malformations of spinal bones and joints
- A scoliotic spine (scoliosis is an unnatural twisting and turning o the spine)
- Obesity Lack of physical exercise Shortened hamstrings or quadriceps
- Pelvic unleveling (having a shorter leg on one side)
- Disorders of the weight-bearing joints (feet, ankles, knees, and hips) Poor core muscles tone or strength
What are the symptoms of a damaged Disc?
The initial stages of spinal disc damage may be asymptomatic. However, as it progress, signs, and symptoms may be noticed. Those who seek attention to remedy the cause will have better chances of recovery. But for those, who choose to ignore or dismiss mild signs or symptoms, it can progress and even become disabling. Spinal disc damage such as a herniated or bulging disc is the leading cause of disability in persons under the age of 45. We have provided some of the most common signs, and symptoms of disc damage are listed below to help you understand how a disc gets damaged:
- Pain or stiffness in the neck, upper back, mid back, low back or the pelvis
- Pain that increases when coughing or sneezing
- Worsening of pain with standing or sitting Increase in pain when walking or during activity
- Numbness or tingling sensations in the spine arms, hands, legs or feet Weakness in shoulders, arms, wrists, hands, legs, ankles or feet
- Pain that worsens during sleep
- Difficulty standing upright following sitting
What are the Types of Spinal Disc Problems?
Degenerative Disc Disease or DDD is the most common spinal disc issue. DDD results from increased stress, leading to disc dehydration or degenerations. These degenerative changes within a disc are the primary reason for how a disc gets damaged. Spinal disc issues are best listed in two categories:
- Mechanical Types: Bulging Disc, Protruded discs, prolapsed discs, herniated disc, ruptured disc, extruded disc or fragmented disc
- Non-Mechanical Type: Rudimentary disc (congenital) and Discitis (an infectious process)
Bulging Disc: A Mechanical Damage of Spinal Discs
Bulging disc is a term that has been sued to mean several spine issues including herniation, protrusions, ruptures, extrusion and even fragmentation. However, the actual meaning of the word bulging disc is one where the disc fibers have swollen more than usual. In reality, a bulging disc will not compress cord or nerves. They are relatively common findings in persons with DDD.
Protruded Disc: A Mechanical Damage of Spinal Discs
In a protruded disc, the center of the disc (nucleus pulposus) migrates outwards towards the spinal canal for foramina but does not break through the outer fibers of the spinal disc (annulus fibrosus) Prolapsed Disc: A disc prolapse is the progression of a protruded disc. In a prolapse, the center of the disc is maintained by only the last remaining fibers of the outer disc structures called the annular fibers or annulus fibrosus.
Herniated Disc or Ruptured Disc: A Mechanical Damage of Spinal Discs
Herniated disc and ruptured disc are interchangeable terms used to describe a scenario where the nucleus pulposus is herniated or ruptured through the protective outer barriers called the annulus fibrosus. In essence, it is the progression of a prolapsed disc, where the last remaining intact fibers are torn, and the center of the disc (nucleus pulposus) comes in contact with the contents of the spinal canal or spinal foraminae.
Extruded Disc: A Mechanical Damage of Spinal Discs
An extruded disc is the progression of a ruptured or herniated disc, where the nucleus pulposus is pushed from the center to the periphery of the spinal disc. These are large disc herniations or disc ruptures in need of immediate attention.
Fragmented Disc: A Mechanical Damage of Spinal Discs
The fragmented disc is the last and most dangerous stage where the nucleus pulposus breaks off and becomes a free-floating entity in the spinal canal. Discitis: Unlike the disc mentioned above issues, a discitis is not a mechanical disorder of the spinal disc. They are the results of an infectious process or an autoimmune disease leading the severe and even life-threatening health issues.
Discitis: A Non-Mechanical form of Disc Damage
Unlike the disc mentioned above issues, a discitis is not a mechanical disorder of the spinal disc. They are the results of an infectious process or an autoimmune disease leading the severe and even life-threatening health issues.
Rudimentary Disc: A Non-Mechanical form of Disc Damage
These are discs that failed to develop fully. Often found in transitional segments. Transitional segments are new spinal bones formed due to congenital variations. They can become health issues, as they will impact the other parts in the spine.
What are the best homecare therapies for spinal disc problems?
A damaged disc produces symptoms when it bulges, herniated, prophases extrude or if it fragments. Up to this stage, we provided information on how a disc gets damaged. In this section, we will cover issues that include information on what you can do at home to alleviate the symptoms of a damaged spinal disc. The little things you do at home or on your own, can prevent the spinal disc from further damage as well as provide some relief of pain. We have provided a few self-help tips and actions below:
- Avoid prolonged sitting or standing
- Avoid postures that put your spine in a flexed or bent position
- Try not to carry heavy items
- Refrain from bending or twisting at the waist
- Remember that movements such as bending and twisting (especially at the same time) can increase pressure on your damaged disc
- Ice the affected area for 10-15 minutes every two to three hours
- Stretch your hamstrings if the disc problem is in your lower back
- Stretch your chest and pectoral muscles if you have neck issues
- Perform mild core exercises that don’t include bending or twisting
- Avoid sleeping on your stomach and try to sleep on your back or your side (90-degrees), with a pillow between the knees
- Take repeated breaks at work Avoid driving distances of 30-minutes or longer
A slipped disc occurs after disc injury. Here is all you need to know about a spinal disc and how a disc gets damaged
How a disc gets damaged is an in-depth topic. You may have to watch the video above a couple of times to fully grasp the complexities of how a disc gets damaged. We spent lots of time researching this topic. We then developed a particular treatment program that countered the effects leading to a slipped disc. Our slipped disc treatments program can reverse your slipped disc. How it does it is through the processes of induced diffusion. In other words, it changes the sequence of events that lead to your spinal disc damaged. I hope you enjoy the video and this article; please share your comments and this page with other. Sharing knowledge is how we improve.
Why is it important to know how a spinal disc gets damaged? Well, a disc will not slip (Bulge or Herniate) unless there is some damage. So, to fix a slipped disc, we need to know it got damaged in the first place. You, as a patient, need to be aware of this fact, so that you don’t fall a victim of the same again and again. In other words, once we fix your slipped disc, it shouldn’t return. The only we can help is to make you aware of how a disc gets damaged so you can prevent damage to the disc again!
Disc bulge, disc herniation, disc protrusion, disc extrusion, prolapsed disc, or more commonly known as slipped disc are the leading causes of neck and back pain.
The intervertebral disc is gel-like structures that connect the bones of the spine. There are two components in spinal disc:
- The Nucleus Pulposus
- Annular fibrosus
The nucleus pulposus in the center and surrounded by layers of tough annular fiber (Annular Fibrosus). The spinal disc sits in between two adjacent spinal vertebrae. Your spinal discs act as shock absorbers, and it helps to distribute the force when the spine is in load-bearing position. However, prolonged axial compression (sitting for long periods) can damage the sensitive fibers of a disc: prematurely wearing and tearing the spinal discs.
Spinal disc bulge, disc herniation, disc extrusion, disc protrusion, and disc fragmentation are serious spinal disc issues that need corrections. Muscle weakness, ligamentous instabilities, fixated spinal joints (subluxations) are the culprits in a slipped disc. These conditions coupled with poor posture and prolonged sitting can lead to damage to your spinal discs. Spinal disc damage caused is always related to the disc’s nutrient levels. Spinal discs with adequate levels of incoming nutrients have better chances of withstanding the stress of daily living. When the nutrient levels decrease so does the spinal disc’s ability to fix or repair itself.
NSD Therapy® can Reverse (Fix) a Slipped Dis: Even if Your Disc is Damaged
Unlike other tissues in our body, a spinal disc does not have a direct blood supply. So, nutrients must be brought in through the process of imbibition. We need to put in the nutrients we need, and at the same time, we need to stop the outflow of nutrients. Or decrease activities, and avoid postures that lead to loss of nutrients.
However, load-bearing activities can expel the nutrients, leading to a nutrient deficiency within a disc. In other words, excessive loading or prolonged sitting can lead to spinal disc starvation and eventual disc damage. And, that is how a disc gets damaged. Once damaged, it can slip (herniate, protrude, prolapse or extrude) pushing and pinching on sensitive nerve fibers.
Each disc also contributes to the movement of the spinal column by allowing slight mobility at each spinal motion segment. With continued abnormal stress across the spinal disc, the nucleus pulposus can herniate, bulge or slip through the fissures in the weakened outer annular fiber. A herniated disc (slipped disc) leads to local neck or back pain with or without radicular symptoms. NSD Therapy® is a non-surgical, multi-modal approach for a slipped disc. NSD Therapy® is a combination of treatments which involves RxDecom®, clinical physiotherapy, neuromuscular rehabilitation, and chiropractic adjustment.
Can Spine Surgery Reverse a Slip-Disc or Slipped Disc?
Spine surgery involves cutting of muscles, ligaments, bones, and discs. In short, it does not reverse a slip-disc but reduces some of the slipped portions of the disc. Spine surgeons address a slipped disc through laminectomy, foraminotomy, discectomy, nucleoplasm or spine fusion. Regardless of the type or method used by your surgeon, spine surgery will not reverse spinal disc damage. In other words, the damage is still present. As such, the slipped disc may return. Therefore, it is recommended to exhaust all your non-surgical options before opting for an invasive procedure.
If you have a slipped disc (bulging or herniated disc), you must address the reasons why it bulged or herniated. Yes, surgery is an option; it offers a quick fix. But, the act of cutting tissues (muscles, ligaments, spinal discs and spinal bones) will cause instability or weakness in your spine’s soft tissues. Weakened soft tissue puts undue stresses on the spinal joint and disc. These weaknesses are the primary reason for future pain and surgical interventions.
So, those diagnosed with a slipped disc will do better with conservative treatments that address the cause. Fixing issues that lead to a slip-disc is better in both the short and long-term basis. NSD Therapy® as performed at our centers offer you the best chance of repairing your lipped disc without spine surgery.
According to the research, conservative management of the slipped disc with a multi-modal approach yields the best result.
A damaged disc is often related to weaknesses and damage to muscles, ligaments, and spinal joints in proximity to the spinal disc. And damage to the surrounding soft tissues such as muscles, ligaments, facet capsules, and nerves. In our centers, we address every aspect of your injury. It is this approach that has allowed us success even when others fail.
Our Clinical Research-Based Teams of Chiropractors and Physiotherapists are the Non-Operative Slipped Disc Experts in Malaysia. In our center, all the chiropractors and physiotherapists are well-trained to identify and treat musculoskeletal problems, especially slipped disc injury in the neck and back. Our Chiropractic treatment approach is patient-centered and based on the best available evidence from the literature.