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You have intervertebral discs that sit between the bones of your spine. These discs act as a shock absorber and help facilitate movement in our spines. While we have 24 vertebrae, we only have 23 discs. There is no disc between the first two bones in your neck, C1 & C2.
If you were to look at an intervertebral disc from above, you would see that the disc is shaped like a kidney bean and composed of 2 different types of material: the annulus fibrosis and the nucleus pulposus. The outer layers, the annulus fibrosis, are composed of strong, concentric layers of collagen fibers that surround the central core. The core, or the nucleus pulposus, is made of a gel-like substance.
Slipped disc, bulging disc, disc herniation, ruptured disc, etc. Do any of these sound familiar? They're all common names for disc injuries and they usually either refer to a bulging disc or herniated disc.
A disc bulge occurs when the strong collagen fibers of the disc start to weaken and deform, kind of like the weak spot on an inner tube. The disc loses its kidney bean shape and becomes more oval. A herniated disc occurs when the strong collagen fibers of the annulus fibrosis actually tear and material from the nucleus pulposus begins to push through the tear. The nucleus pulposus contains inflammatory proteins that irritate the nerves that innervate the disc itself. If the outer rim of the disc has ruptured, material can leak into the spinal canal and put pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots that come off the spinal cord.
Back or neck pain that is caused by strains or sprains will respond to treatment within days or weeks.
Pain in the neck of back lasts longer than three months, even with treatment, may indicate the possibility of a herniated disc.
Any one (or more) of the 23 discs in a human spine may become herniated. Injuries, overuse, and aging are the most common causes. Aging is a particularly common culprit, as all discs experience normal degeneration throughout a lifetime, losing water content and flexibility through the years.
Doctors have identified some factors that will increase the risk of suffering a herniated disc. They include the following:
In the majority of cases, surgery is not needed. Non-surgical conservative care, like the kind that Achieve Chiropractic Care provides, has been shown to speed recovery and help prevent future flare-ups of back or neck pain due to disc injury.
If the doctor feels that no progress is being made with conservative care, she will refer you to a trusted orthopedic specialist who can review other treatment options.