Most people know that their back has discs, but what and where they are is often missed!
Our spine is made up of 33 vertebrae which run from the tail bone to the top of the neck. Each vertebrae is shaped differently to allow for different movements. These regions all work together to help us to move in our daily lives.
Like all the other joints in our body, each vertebrae is strongly wrapped in a complex system of soft tissues such as ligaments, tendons and muscles. In addition to all these structures, there is an intervertebral disc which sits in between each vertebrae. This intervertebral disc has two main sections – the annulus and the nucleus. The annulus is an outer fibrous ring consisting of multiple concentric layers which is very strong. The nucleus is amazing at resisting and redistributing compression. Working together these features help our spine to absorb load and move around against gravity.
Many people experience what is known as a disc bulge at some point during their lives. This usually refers to a situation when the inner nucleus region presses against the annulus causing a bulge, thus the name.
Interestingly, disc bulges in the spine are really common and often don’t cause any issues, in fact you probably won’t even know you have one! These bulges can be asymptomatic but if the annulus is irritated or inflamed these disc bulges can be a source of back pain.
Despite all the scary pictures and articles on the internet, a lot is known about the disc and its amazing ability to heal. Even when the nucleus partially escapes the annulus (disc herniation) and is causing pain, the large majority of cases are no longer painful after 1-3 months. The best treatment supported by research for back pain of any cause is gentle, regular exercise, however your osteopath can support you in your recovery by providing advice and education, stretching or massaging tight
muscles, prescribing specific exercises, and helping to improve your spine’s ability to move.
We can also provide guidance and appropriate referrals to specialists for imaging, injections and surgical interventions in the very rare event where that may be required.