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Understanding Spinal Disc Problems

By Debra Rodzinak

Even for medical professionals, spinal disc problems can be widely misunderstood. Disagreements on the root causes of pain, the complexity of the spine, and the vast number of terms used to describe disc pain can leave patients feeling frustrated when they suffer from pain in their back.

Spinal Disc Terms

Pinched nerve, degenerated disc, bulging disc, slipped disc, and herniated disc are just a few of the terms used to describe back pain related to the spinal discs. What is the difference between these terms and how does it relate to your back pain? Most of these terms refer to the same problem; the spongy discs that separate each vertebra of the spine can suffer different problems. If the disc begins to wear away, they degenerate. If the disc moves out of place, it can be bulging, slipped, or herniated. 

Spinal Disc Anatomy

Sitting between each bony vertebra of the back, spinal discs are flat on the top and bottom and rounded in the middle. They are attached to each vertebra at the top and bottom. They can be thought of as shock absorbers of the spine. 

There are 23 vertebral discs that hold the spinal column together. Most spinal problems are not from the actual bony vertebrae, but injury or changes to the discs between the vertebrae. Neck, back, and leg pain can be attributed to disc problems of the spine.   

Disc Pain Versus Nerve Root Pain

There are two main categories of pain related to the spinal discs: Disc pain and nerve root pain.

  • Degenerative Disc Disease – When the disc begins to dry out or wears away due to aging, loss of flexibility and the ability to absorb shock lessens. When the inside part of the vertebrae shrinks, less cushioning is provided to the spine and the outer part of the vertebrae develops tiny tears. This can cause intense pain. This pain is referred to as axial pain.
  • Herniated Disc – Radicular pain is caused from nerve root pain. This will happen when the fluid or soft inner part of the disc leaks out and touches a nerve root. 

If you are suffering from any type of spinal disc pain, consult your physician. Then, drop by The Joint for a gentle spinal adjustment. At The Joint there are no pesky insurance forms to fill out or appointment times to remember, leaving you with an easy and stress free way to find pain relief for your back pain.


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