The spine is made up of 33 vertebrae. In between each of these vertebrae are intervertebral discs. Each disc has a tough outer wall, the annulus fibrosus, which surrounds a soft, spongy, jellylike interior called the nucleus pulposus.
Composed of water, collagen, and proteoglycans, the annulus fibrosus supports the nucleus and helps distribute pressure evenly across the intervertebral disc. It also attaches the disc to the surrounding bones with its fibrocartilage. The collagen and fibrocartilage are woven together into a flexible yet strong structure that acts as a shock absorber for the various forces placed on our back and neck every day.
Like every other area of our bodies, our intervertebral discs begin to show signs of wear and tear as we age. Eventually, this wear and tear may lead to a diagnosis of degenerative disc disease. During the course of this disease, the inside of the discs – the nucleus pulposus – begins to lose fluid content, which reduces the disc’s ability to cushion our vertebrae, especially in the lumbar (lower spine) and cervical (neck) regions. The outer part of the disc – the annulus fibrosus – also may tear, causing the nucleus pulposus to bulge out or leak into the spinal column, a condition appropriately called a bulging disc or herniated disc. Symptoms of a herniated disc or bulging disc can include pain in the spinal column as well as pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness along the affected limbs.
In addition to causing a herniated or bulging disc, degenerative disc disease also can lead to thinning of the discs, eventually forcing the surrounding vertebrae to move closer together. As the spacing between the vertebrae narrows, there can be an impingement on nearby nerve roots.
If you believe the pain you’re experiencing is due to degenerative disc disease, a bulging disc, or a ruptured disc, contact your physician. He or she can determine the cause of your suffering and recommend treatments to reduce your discomfort.
In some cases, patients may require surgery to remove disc matter such as the annulus fibrosus and nucleus pulposus, thereby relieving pressure on spinal nerves. Fortunately, there are outpatient options available for pain relief, including the state-of-the-art, minimally invasive procedures performed at Laser Spine Institute. With a much faster recuperation period and a higher success rate than traditional open-back surgery, LSI’s pioneering procedures can help you to regain your quality of life in as little as one week. Contact us today for a free MRI or CT scan review, and to receive more information about our institute.