You bent down to pick up a pen that rolled under your desk and suddenly, “OUCH!” You felt perfectly fine and now it hurts to even think about standing up straight again. It’s not uncommon for back pain to happen from something that seems to be quite trivial. However, back pain that happens suddenly is usually the straw that broke the camel’s back.
This type of back pain is usually the first sign of an underlying condition or disease affecting the spine. Conditions that affect spinal discs are some of the most common causes of low back pain and other painful conditions like sciatica. Let’s find out what you can do to decrease the risk of injuring your discs!
What Do Spinal Discs Do?
Sandwiched between each vertebra in the spine, with the exception of the first and second vertebrae, is a disc. The discs, also known as intervertebral discs serve as shock absorbers that prevent the vertebrae from grinding against one during day-to-day activities and exercise. Without the function of the disc, something as simple as sitting could become excruciatingly painful.
The outside of the disc, the annulus fibrosus, is made up of sturdy collagen fibers that form rings around the center of the disc, similar to that of a tree trunk. This helps the spine be resistant to compressive forces and provides stability for rotational movements.
The inside of the disc, the nucleus pulposus, is a gel-like substance that helps distribute weight and stress between each vertebra of the spine. The discs are closely positioned to the spinal nerves that communicate with your arms, legs and other parts of the body. Therefore, injury to the discs can cause pain that radiates into areas outside of the spine and back.
What Causes Injury to The Discs?
When it comes to disc injuries, most people tend to think of traumas like car accidents or high-impact contact sports like football. However, anything that causes disc compression can cause a disc injury. Even chronic stress to the spine from repetitive movements and being overweight can be the source of a disc injury.
What Happens When the Disc is Injured?
Disc bulges and herniations are two of the most common types of disc injuries. While you’ve probably heard them used interchangeably, disc bulges and herniations are not the same. They can occur anywhere in the body, but are most commonly seen in the lumbar spine.
A disc bulge occurs when the nucleus pulposus of the disc, breaks through one of the inner rings of the annulus while the outer rings stay intact. A disc herniation happens when the nucleus pulposus pushes completely through all the rings of the annulus. Why is this a problem? A disc bulge or herniation can compress the spinal cord and nearby nerves leading to pains in the back, arms, and legs. In severe cases, a disc injury can cause loss of bowel and bladder control. These acute spinal conditions can set the stage for the onset of chronic spinal conditions like degenerative disc disease.
Ways to Prevent Disc Injury
With causes ranging from sitting too long to being an NFL linebacker, a disc injury may seem inevitable. However, incorporating small habits into your everyday routine will