Let’s Talk About Those Spinal Discs of Yours

Our spinal discs are quite a thing, keeping our vertebrae from rubbing against each other and enabling movement of the spine that otherwise would be impossible. But they’re also problematic. They bulge and herniate. They press on nearby nerve roots or even the spinal cord itself. They can be the culprit behind lots of back pain.

So, for July, let’s get into our discs in this month’s two blogs.

What are the discs?

Sandwiched in between every vertebra, there are 23 discs in the spinal column. Formally known as the vertebral discs, these shock absorbers have three primary functions:

  • Positioned between each bony vertebra, they act as shock absorbers in the spine.
  • They act as tough ligaments that hold the vertebrae of the spine together.
  • They are cartilaginous joints that allow for slight mobility in the spine.

Each disc is made up of two parts: a tough outer portion and a soft inner core. Think of them as being akin to those famous signature candies of the Goetze Company, caramel creams.

  • Annulus fibrosus — This tough outer portion of the disc is composed of concentric sheets of collagen fibers.
  • Nucleus pulposus — The inner core of the disc contains a loose network of fibers suspended in a mucoprotein gel.

The outer and inner portion of each disc fit together like two concentric cylinders. The annulus fibrosus has cartilaginous endplates that firmly attach the disc to the vertebrae above and below.

At birth, our discs are made of 80 percent water. This enables each disc to be highly malleable. This is important so they can handle the loads placed upon them by the spine.

Disc degeneration

The problem isn’t when we’re young; young discs more gel-like than solid. But this changes with time. As we age, our discs dehydrate and become stiffer. Now they are less able to withstand compression. They can bulge outward or develop a crack in the annulus (herniation). Inflammatory proteins from the inner nucleus can leak out of the disc space and inflame the various nerves and nerve fibers in and around the disc. This is degenerative disc disease, and this is where much of the back pain we experience all stems from.

In July’s second blog, we’ll get into degenerative disc disease and how it impacts your spine and the nerves involved. We’ll also go through how Dr. Tinley can help at DFW Center for Spinal Disorders.

Do you have chronic back pain? Call us at DFW Center for Spinal Disorders, (817) 916-4685, and let’s see what’s going on.

Posted in: Degenerative Disc Disease

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