Although many people know that the spinal cord is surrounded by vertebrae, few people know what is between the vertebrae. Intervertebral discs made of cartilage not only act as shock absorbers for the vertebrae, but they also serve a connective function by joining adjacent vertebrae. Additionally, intervertebral discs greatly increase the flexibility of the spine.
Details and Problems
Because these discs between the vertebrae play such an important role, it is understandable that disc damage could have very negative effects on the rest of our body. The spinal nerves that leave the spinal cord to send signals to the rest of the body must weave their way through openings in the vertebrae, which means damaged discs are at risk of infringing on the neural space. If a disc tears, leaks, protrudes, or slips forward, the nerves send a message to the brain, which translates the signal as pain.
Issues with the intervertebral discs between the vertebrae can be difficult to diagnose, however, because the symptoms are often referred, meaning that they appear in places other than the exact site of damage. Referred symptoms can include any of the following:
- Cervical vertebrae: the portion of the spine that resides in the neck and the upper back may produce symptoms of pain, weakness, tingling, or numbness that spread into the shoulders, arms, and hands.
- Thoracic vertebrae: the portion of the spine that resides in the middle back, between the base of the neck and the bottom of the rib cage, may produce symptoms around the rib cage, near the kidneys, or in the pelvic region.
- Lumbar vertebrae: the portion of the spine that resides in the lower back may produce symptoms that radiate through the buttocks, down the legs, and then wrap around the calf and into the feet and toes.
If you have experienced any of the above symptoms, you may have a damaged disc between the vertebrae. For most patients, a routine of non-invasive treatment is usually enough to eliminate pain. However, for those individuals who experience chronic disc pain and a reduced quality of life, it may be time to consider spine surgery.
Laser Spine Institute (LSI) specializes in minimally invasive endoscopic procedures that pose far fewer risks than traditional open spine operations and offer greatly expedited recovery periods. Contact LSI today for more information, or for a free review of your MRI or CT scan.