Intervertebral — definition and relationship to spine conditions

The term intervertebral means “between the vertebrae” and it is usually used to describe the spinal discs that are layered between each vertebra, acting as shock absorbers.

The spine is basically a stack of bones called the vertebrae that are connected by facet joints and cushioned by the intervertebral discs. These parts work together to protect the spinal cord and support and move the upper body. If you are suffering from neck or back pain from a disc-related condition, getting an overview of the underlying causes can help you and your doctor develop a treatment plan that can get you back to regular activities.

Overview of disc conditions

Intervertebral discs are vulnerable to a number of problems because they endure a significant amount of wear and tear. Discs can become damaged as a result of an injury or trauma to the spine. Actions like heavy lifting, repetitive use of poor body mechanics or sudden twisting movements can increase your chances of incurring intervertebral disc damage that leads to conditions such as:

  • Bulging discs — This occurs when the disc weakens or degenerates and protrudes into the spinal canal.
  • Herniated discs — This is when the outer layer of a disc ruptures and inner material leaks out
  • Bone spurs — Weakened discs can increase pressure on the vertebrae, causing bone-on-bone contact. Bone spurs are a natural response to increase stability.
  • Degenerative disc disease — This condition is a general term for age-related disc deterioration that happens when reduced blood flow causes disc material to dehydrate and lose elasticity.

All of these conditions can cause a restricted range of motion in the spine leading to symptoms, including local back stiffness and pain, as well as radiating pain, weakness and numbness in the extremities. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you may have intervertebral disc damage that is causing nerve compression.

Treating intervertebral discs

Upon diagnosis, most physicians or spine specialists will begin treatment with a course of conservative pain management options like massage therapy, hot and cold compression and pain medication. More advanced treatments like epidural steroid injections and physical therapy can also be pursued. Traditional open back surgery is often viewed as a last-resort when weeks or months of conservative options don’t bring needed relief.

Laser Spine Institute is the leader in minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery, which is an alternative to the hospitalization and long recovery periods associated with traditional procedures.

If you have exhausted conservative treatment and are considering surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute today for a no-cost MRI review* to see if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures.