A spinal disc resides between each vertebral body in the spine. Often referred to as intervertebral discs or simply discs, these cartilaginous pads acts as shock absorbers for the vertebrae and for the fragile spinal cord. Spinal discs also promote spinal flexibility and act as ligaments that allow vertebrae to adhere to one another.
There are 23 intervertebral discs in the spine, labeled according to their position in between the vertebrae of the cervical spine (upper), thoracic spine (middle), and lumbar spine (lower). The sacrum and coccyx regions at the end of the spine do not have discs.
A spinal disc has two layers: the outermost layer (annulus fibrosus) and an inner, jelly-like substance (nucleus pulposus). As we get older, these discs begin to degrade because of all the tension and they’re forced to support, a condition commonly called degenerative disc disease. Discs also can be injured in a variety of ways, for example, during an auto accident or while participating in a sport. A weakened spinal disc may rupture and the inner fluid extrudes into the spinal canal—this is a herniated disc. Or, a spinal disc could form a contained bubble that takes up space in the spinal canal—this is a bulging disc. If neural passageways in the spinal column become constricted, the nerves also become painfully constricted.
If your physician diagnoses you with a condition involving a spinal disc, he or she may suggest a regimen of conventional treatment options to relieve your pain and give the disc a chance to heal on its own. If this plan proves ineffective, traditional spinal surgery may be suggested. Types of spinal surgeries include:
- Discectomy – the damaged disc is all or partially removed, releasing neural pressure
- Foraminotomy – the foramina are widened, allowing nerve tissue more space
- Laminotomy – the lamina, or thin bony plate on the vertebral arch, is all or partially removed to increase space in the spinal canal
These open-back surgeries involve a large incision site, and a hospital stay. A full recovery could take up to a year or more. If you are interested in relieving your back pain due to spinal disc damage, but you feel that traditional surgeries may not be for you, Laser Spine Institute (LSI) may be able to suggest an alternative treatment method. Minimally-invasive, outpatient procedures at LSI have helped tens of thousands of people rediscover a life without pain. Contact us today to find out more about our state-of-the-art, laser-assisted treatments, and for a free review of your MRI or CT scan.