Do Disc Injuries Cause Back Pain?
Spinal discs, also called intervertebral discs, are often compared to shock absorbers, cushioning the impacts of the weight, pressure and twisting motion placed on the vertebrae. Spinal discs are flat and, as the name implies, circular, measuring about one inch in diameter and a quarter inch thick. The discs are firm, and have a fibrous outer membrane called the annular ring, and gelatinous inner core. As we age the core hardens, the outer membrane weakens, and the disc loses some of its elasticity, making it more susceptible to injury, even as discs gradually succumb to the natural, degenerative effects of aging. Injuries to the disc can cause the annular ring to break or become bruised, and the irritation may cause swelling that can press on a spinal nerve. Additionally, the annular ring contains a network of nerves that heighten the perception of pain when damage occurs. Alternatively, the disc’s inner material may swell and distend the outer membrane, which in turn can put pressure on the surrounding nerves. It is this nerve impingement that causes the debilitating back pain that can be associated with herniated discs. Usually the pain is in the lower back; about 90 percent of all disc injuries occur in the lower, or lumbar region of the spine. Some lumbar disc injuries, however, are asymptomatic, or cause no more than a mild ache in the area of the injured disc.
While none of us can escape natural degenerative changes to the disc forever, you can take steps to avoid the injuries to the disc by maintaining proper weight and posture. Moderate exercise has been shown to be effective in reducing the occurrence of disc problems. For those who’ve already developed injured discs, physical therapy can often help reduce the severity of symptoms. Left untreated, disc injuries can result in permanent damage, so it’s important for anyone experiencing debilitating back pain or other symptoms of injured discs to seek assistance from a qualified medical specialist.