Did she mention doughnuts just to get my attention? This just makes the doughnut’s feel used like a cheap snack. Actually I have found jelly to be a fine suitor when looking for a food to compare the discs in your spine to. Even better it helps me explain when your discs come under pressure and start to feel the bulge, expanding outward. So, for today let’s get a hold of when your discs feel the squeeze.
Let’s start with a little light anatomy of your back. First I have to tell you the spine is an elegant compromise in structure vs. function. In order to get all of the range of motion your neck and back requires, a little bit of stability has to be sacrificed.
Your spine has 24 bones stacked up on top of one another. In between those bones are our doughnuts the discs, those little cushiony pillows that keep the bones from grinding against each other when you turn you head or swing your golf club. Ligaments are the ropes, which lock these bones together. And then there are the muscles, which use tendons to grab hold of the bones. They are the movers and shakers of this party. Lets not forget the nerves, which use the spine as their freeway to get messages to and from the brain.
Now back to the jelly doughnut. Like our calorie-laden friend, our discs have two layers. The jelly or for more formal relations the nucleus sits safely in the center. Just as the crust keeps the jelly from getting all over your hands, your annulus is the tough outer layer that holds every thing in place.
What is a herniated disc? That’s easy, it’s when the dough tears and the jelly spills out. A bulging disc is when a weak spot bulges out due to internal pressure. What causes it is a bit harder to understand. Sometimes it can be traced back to an accident, lifting something way too heavy or maybe a car accident. Most of the time it’s just wear and tear over the years. The disc age just like the rest of our body (even for those residing in LA). Our discs get thirsty and start to wither down after years of working overtime.
The usual suspects for disc degeneration are in the neck and lower back. How this is felt largely depends on the location. In your low back the disk can set the sciatic nerve on fire, shooting a pain right down the back of your leg. At the base of the neck you may feel it all the way down to your fingertips. The discs are the spacers of the back, keeping a healthy distance between your backbones. So when they shrink, the bones get too close for comfort. The nerves that use these spaces as tunnels to ‘come and go’ from spinal cord can feel the squeeze. When this happens, trouble abounds including numbness, tingling, pain and more.
Some people end up going under the knife, but most of the time this can be avoided. Simple disc bulges can be managed with chiropractic care. For many, decompression therapy is there best option. With computer-controlled tension, a specific disc can be distracted back into place. This suctions nutrients and oxygen back into the disc. This causes retraction of the bulging or herniated disc returning it to its healthy roots.