While the intervertebral disc is a common culprit in spine related health problems, its function is widely misunderstood.
The disc is a small cartilage pad that is situated between spinal bones. The soft jelly like centre is contained and protected by the surrounding layers of fibrous tissue. Each disc serves as a connector, spacer and shock absorber for the spine also playing a huge role in allowing normal turning and bending of the body.
Since spinal discs have a very poor blood supply, they depend upon the circulation of joint fluids to bring in nutrients and expel waste. If a spinal joint loses its normal motion or position and this pumping action is impaired, the health of the disc can deteriorate. Like a wet sponge, a healthy disc is flexible whereas a dry sponge is hard, stiff and can crack easily. This is how many disc problems begin.
Because of the way each disc is attached to the vertebrae above and below it, a disc cannot “slip” as commonly thought. However, trauma or injury can cause discs to bulge, herniated, or worse, rupture! This can be quite painful, creating swelling around the disc, putting pressure on the spinal cord/nerve roots and thus interfering with their function. Pressure on the nerve roots can cause symptoms such as:
1. Shooting pain or numbness in the shoulder, arm and hand.
2. Pain shooting down through the buttock and thigh into the back of your leg.
3. Pain or increase in symptoms when you cough, sneeze or strain while having a bowel movement.
Chronic disc problems can cause muscle wasting and weakness not forgetting to mention that altered nerve function will result in an impaired nerve supply to organs to which they innervate ergo organ dysfunction.
With all of this said, Dr Raffi exercises extreme care and caution before initiating chiropractic care on a herniated disc. The chiropractic approach to disc problems is to help restore better motion and position to the spinal joints. Besides reducing disc bulging, better spinal function can help decrease inflammation and begin the slow process of healing in the surrounding soft tissues.