Between our spinal vertebrae are intervertebral discs. These discs are made up of a tough outer wall called the annulus fibrosus, and an inner soft, jellylike substance known as the nucleus pulposus. Together, they provide cushioning to the spinal column.
The nucleus pulposus is composed of water and fibrocartilaginous material that work to distribute pressure evenly across each disc as you sit, stand, walk, or engage in various physical activities. For example, when a person bends forward, the vertebrae come closer together in front, which then pushes the nucleus pulposus toward the back.
Over time, the nucleus pulposus begins to lose its fluid content, making it stiff and weak. The disc’s protective outer wall, or annulus fibrosus, can then bulge or rupture. Aging, trauma, or changes to the disc from degenerative disc disease can lead to this breakdown. If the annulus fibrosus bulges or ruptures, the nucleus pulposus pushes into the spinal column and can impinge nerve roots. Symptoms of a bulging disc or herniated disc include neck or back pain, numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness. Pain may worsen after standing or sitting for a period of time, when sneezing, coughing, or laughing, and when bending or twisting.
Consult your healthcare provider if you notice any of these symptoms. He or she can determine the cause of your suffering and prescribe treatment options including medication, special exercises, or physical therapy.
Some patients may need more than conservative treatment to regain their mobility. Thankfully, there is another option—minimally invasive procedures performed on an outpatient basis at Laser Spine Institute. With a quicker recuperation period than other treatments like open-back surgery, our gentle, innovative procedures can help you return to a fully-functioning lifestyle in no time! Contact us today for a free MRI or CT scan review, and to learn more information about our state of the art facilities.