Let’s start off with a bit of human anatomy before we get into discussing spinal disc pathology.
The spine, also known as the vertebral column or spinal column, is a column of 26 bones in an adult body — 24 separate vertebrae interspaced with cartilage, and then additionally the sacrum and coccyx at the end of the spine.
What is a Spinal disc?
Spinal discs are the shock-absorbing rings of fibrocartilage and glycoprotein that separate your bony vertebral bodies while allowing movement at each spinal level, and enough room for the major spinal nerves to exit from the spinal canal and travel to your limbs.
What is a Spinal Pathology?
Spinal Pathology can be anything from a degenerative spine or scoliosis to more acute complex trauma. There are many different levels of spinal pathology, along with many symptoms, ranging from tingling or numbness to acute pain.
Here’s a list of the different types of Disc Pathology
Simply put, degenerative disc disease refers to symptoms of back or neck pain caused by wear-and-tear on a spinal disc. In some cases, degenerative disc disease also causes weakness, numbness, and hot, shooting pains in the arms or legs.
Despite what the name suggests, degenerative disc disease is not a disease, but a condition in which natural, age-related wear-and-tear on a disc causes pain, instability, and other symptoms. This condition usually does not result in long-term disability, and most cases can be managed using non-surgical treatment methods.
Some discs most likely begin to bulge as a part of both the ageing process and the degeneration process of the intervertebral disc. A bulging disc is not necessarily a sign that anything serious is happening to your spine. A bulging disc only becomes serious when it bulges enough to cause narrowing of your spinal canal.
A herniated disk refers to a problem with one of the rubbery cushions (discs) between the individual bones (vertebrae) that stack up to make your spine.
A spinal disc is a little like a jelly donut, with a softer centre encased within a tougher exterior. Sometimes called a slipped disc or a ruptured disc, a herniated disc occurs when some of the softer “jelly” pushes out through a tear in the tougher exterior.
A herniated disc can irritate nearby nerves and result in pain, numbness or weakness in an arm or leg. On the other hand, many people experience no symptoms from a herniated disc. Most people who have a herniated disc don’t need surgery to correct the problem.
In the same way that muscles get smaller and bones get weaker as we age, the soft cushion-like discs that separate the bones of the spine begin to deteriorate. They begin to lose water content within the gel-like centre, and the disc’s tough outer wall can become brittle and weak.
This combination reduces the disc’s ability to serve as the shock absorber between vertebrae. The resulting pressure from the vertebrae above and below can lead to a bulging or herniated disc.
Disc Degeneration with Osteophyte Formation
Disc Degeneration Osteophyte Formation is a condition of the spine that may affect the spine as a person ages. Osteophytes form because of the increase in a damaged joint’s surface area. This is most common from the onset of arthritis. Osteophytes usually limits joint movement and typically causes pain. Osteophytes form naturally on the back of the spine and are age-related signs of degeneration in the spine.
What Does It All Mean?
Disc degeneration, thinning and bulging discs are part of a normal process that is happening in our body as we age and partly due to the amount of stress we place on our spine from our daily activities.
All of these can mean something or nothing. Some people have positive findings on imaging such as MR and despite that have no symptoms, but others do.
Things that help with spinal pain is maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, having strong core muscles and generally avoiding a sedentary lifestyle.
Here at Comfort Health
If you have any further questions about your spine, please get in touch with the team here at Comfort Health and we can provide you with more information.