Intervertebral discs are extremely important to the spine. There is one disc in between each vertebrae that aids in cushioning the spine, acting as a ligament, and providing movement of the spinal column.
Intervertebral discs are composed of two different sections – an inner, gel like nucleus (nucleus pulposus) and an outer fibrous ring (disc annulus). The inner fibrocartilage of the center aids in evenly distributing pressure across the entire disc, while also acting as a shock absorber.
Bulging and Herniated Discs
Unfortunately, much of the population has suffered from a bulging or herniated disc. When a disc is no longer inside of its designated space between vertebrae, it can begin to cause pain. This is due to a disc pushing on a spinal nerve, causing pain or numbness around the region and down a corresponding limb.
There are many terms you may have heard for a vertebral disc that is out of alignment. This includes the familiar bulging, herniated, slipped, collapsed, protruding, torn, and ruptured discs. There are not exact definitions of these terms as they may overlap.
A bulging disc contains a disc that is extending outside of the appropriate vertebral space. It can nudge a spinal nerve, causing pain and numbness. Other times, the disc itself is painful. Most often, the center of the disc is compromised, stretched from the inner core, but still trapped inside the walls of the disc annulus. This causes a bulge in the disc.
A herniated disc is very similar to a bulging disc except for the fact that the inner nucleus pulposus is completely exposed. It no longer remains inside of the fibrous walls of the outer core. The outer, disc annulus has been torn, allowing the inner gel like contents to protrude out, often pressing on the nearby spinal nerve.
As long as a disc is not protruding onto the nearby spinal nerves, no tingling or numbness symptoms will be exhibited. Cervical disc bulging or herniation will lead to numbness in the arm and fingers. Compromised lumbar discs may lead to painful sciatica, and pain and numbness down the buttocks, hip, knee, and sometimes all the way to the foot.
Without proper disc space, the surrounding vertebrae can begin to deteriorate due to the lack of shock absorption. Proper spine maintenance including massage, stretching, and chiropractic adjustments can aid in minimizing pain.
For more information on herniated and bulging discs or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Moore, call (210) 525-9063