A Closer Look at Your Discs

Aug 14, 2023
A Closer Look at Your Discs
Wondering if the pain you’re experiencing could be related to an issue with a disc? Take a moment as we look more closely at these vital spinal structures and the problems that can develop if something goes wrong with your intervertebral discs.

When it comes to the health of your spine, the discs that rest between your vertebrae play a crucial role. These discs work like cushions and shock absorbers, allowing your spine to move and providing support for your body. 

If something goes wrong with one or more of your discs, it can cause different health conditions and significant discomfort. Since it can be difficult to know what’s causing back or neck pain, you should seek professional medical help.

At the Center for Minimally Invasive Neurosurgery in the greater Houston area, board-certified neurosurgeon Praveen Reddy, MD, MCh., and our team offer expert diagnosis and treatment of multiple spine and disc conditions. 

Intervertebral discs 101

Your spine has a series of bones called vertebrae stacked on top of each other in three areas: the neck (cervical spine), mid-back (thoracic spine), and lower back (lumbar spine). Together, they form a flexible and protective column around your spinal cord. 

Between each pair of vertebrae, you have an intervertebral disc. The discs act as both cushions and connectors, helping you move smoothly and distributing your weight evenly while keeping your spine stable when you move. They also absorb the impact of everyday activities, like walking, running, and jumping. 

These discs are made of two layers: a tough outer layer called the annulus fibrosus and a gel-like center known as the nucleus pulposus. The outer layer gives your discs strength and structure, while the soft inner layer absorbs shock and allows for spinal movement.

When something goes wrong with a disc

When something goes wrong with one or more of your discs, it can lead to various conditions and symptoms that can significantly affect your quality of life. Some common disc-related problems include conditions such as:

Herniated disc

Also known as a slipped or ruptured disc, a herniated disc occurs when the soft inner material of the disc pushes through the outer layer. This can cause frustrating symptoms, including pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in your back, neck, arms, or legs, depending on the location of the affected disc.

Degenerative disc disease

As you get older, the discs in your spine undergo natural wear-and-tear. Degenerative disc disease refers to the gradual breakdown of these discs. The condition can lead to pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. 

Bulging disc

A bulging disc refers to a condition that develops when the disc extends or protrudes past its normal boundaries. A bulging disc can cause compression or irritation of nearby spinal nerves, resulting in pain, tingling, or weakness in the affected area of your spine.

Discogenic pain

Discogenic pain is the name for pain that stems from the intervertebral discs themselves and irritates surrounding nerves. It’s often described as deep, aching, and localized to the specific disc. This type of pain can be chronic and may worsen with certain movements or activities.

Help for disc-related troubles

If you’re experiencing symptoms related to your discs or suspect a disc-related problem, seek help from a spine specialist like Dr. Reddy and our team at the Center for Minimally Invasive Neurosurgery. 

Dr. Reddy specializes in diagnosing and treating disc conditions. During your visit, we conduct a comprehensive evaluation, which may involve a physical examination, medical history review, and imaging tests such as X-rays or MRI scans. 

Once Dr. Reddy establishes the exact cause of your symptoms, he develops a personalized disc treatment plan. Your treatment options depend on the severity and specific nature of your condition. 

For most patients, Dr. Reddy considers nonsurgical therapies first. These more conservative treatments may include:

  • Lifestyle changes (e.g., practicing good posture, regular exercise, losing weight)
  • Physical therapy
  • Medications (e.g., nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, pain medications)
  • Epidural steroid injections

In more severe cases or when conservative treatments don’t give you sufficient relief, Dr. Reddy may recommend surgical interventions. Depending on the nature of your condition, spine surgeries can range from minimally invasive procedures to more extensive spine surgeries.

Learn more about intervertebral discs and the associated conditions by scheduling an appointment online or over the phone today at the Center for Minimally Invasive Neurosurgery location nearest you. We have offices in Conroe, Willis, The Woodlands, and the Willowbrook area of Houston, Texas.

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