Many of us have grown up hearing such terms as slipped disc, bulging disc, ruptured disc or herniated disc. But they are so commonly misconstrued. Many things can go wrong with a vertebral disc over a lifetime. A traumatic injury can crush or misplace a disc. An excessive pulling or lifting accident at home or on the job can force a disc out of position. And for some of us, simply getting older can cause a disc to deteriorate. Dr. Stan G. Langford III provides treatment for degenerative disc disease with the help of Cox Decompression and other techniques at his Chula Vista, CA, practice, providing effective relief from pain and discomfort.
A slipped disc has nothing to do with a disc that has moved, but rather a disc whose center fluid is bulging or has ruptured through the discs outer ring.
What Exactly is a Disc?
Vertebral discs are the shock absorbers that are found between each vertebra. A disc is sandwiched between two vertebrae supported by ligaments. Composed of collagen, discs have a tough outer core and a soft inner core. When you are born, these discs are mostly water.
As you get older, the discs slowly lose their water content and get harder, providing less soft and cushy support. Because they have little blood supply and few nerve endings, discs are unable to repair themselves.
Degenerative Disc Disease Symptoms
- Most experience chronic low back pain with periodic severe pain.
- Usually sitting worsens the pain.
- Bending, twisting, and lifting worsens the pain
- Lying down reduces the pain by relieving the strain on the disc space.
- There may be numbness, tingling in the legs if the degeneration is located in the lumbar spine.
- Pain and numbness and tingling in the neck, shoulder blades, arms and hands may be experienced if the degeneration is in the cervical spine.
Degenerative Disc Diseases We Commonly Treat
Disc disorders are generally classified as contained discs or non-contained discs. Contained discs are discs that are essentially intact, but protruding where they do not belong. Non-contained discs are ruptured discs that also may protrude into another area of the spine, leaking their fluid and causing havoc.
Degenerative Disc Disease or Spondylosis
As we age, the water and protein content of the body’s cartilage changes. This change results in weaker and thinner cartilage. Because both the discs and the joints that stack the vertebrae (facet joints) are partially composed of cartilage, these areas are prone to degenerative wear and tear over time. The gradual deterioration of the disc between the vertebrae is called degenerative disc disease (also medically referred to as spondylosis).
As the disc becomes thinner, it becomes less effective as a shock absorber. With less space between the vertebrae, nerves may become compressed, causing them to swell and signal pain. As the disc’s ability to absorb the stress we put on our spines, other parts of the spine become overloaded, which leads to more irritation, inflammation, fatigue, muscle spasms and back pain. Bone spurs, sometimes called osteophytes, may begin to form around the disc space as well, further irritating the condition.