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Types of Intervertebral Disc Injuries
The intervertebral disc is a structure found in the spine or vertebral column. The spine is made up of many vertebrae or vertebral bones that extend from the base of your skull down to your tailbone. In between each of these bones is an intervertebral disc. One of the primary purposes of a disc is to act as a cushion and absorbs pressure placed on the spine. The disc is composed of an outer ring of cartilaginous type "annular fibers" and a gel like fluid center. You cannot see a disc on an x-ray. An MRI is a better imaging procedure for identifying a disc injury.
Although the discs can absorb some pressure, too much pressure can cause the weakest area of the disc (usually the back) to "give way" or change shape. Example: Partially blow up a small balloon then grasp it in one hand. When you squeeze the balloon on one side the other side bulges out. This is similar to what happens when too much pressure is applied to one side of a disc. A disc is much tougher than a balloon though, and only changes its shape under excessive pressure. When the disc changes shape (bulges) it causes a disruption (tearing) to the fibers of the disc. This disruption, along with a chemical reaction that occurs at site of injury will cause pain. Bulge, protrusion, and herniation, in order of severity, are terms used to describe the size of change that occurred.
What are a few possible causes of a Disc Bulge/Protrusion/Herniation?
Auto accidents can cause disc injuries to the discs in either the neck or the back. Using improper lifting procedures or lifting objects that are too heavy can cause disc injuries in the back. Falling down on your backside can cause disc injuries in the back.
As mentioned above, when a disc bulges, protrudes, or herniates it causes a disruption (tearing) in the annular fibers of the outer rim of the disc. This tearing can be mild, moderate, or severe. As the severity of the tearing increases, so does the pain.
A disc extrusion is similar to a disc bulge/protrusion/herniation but it is more severe. With a disc extrusion not only does the disc change shape but the disruption (tearing) is extensive enough to allow room for some of the gel like material in the center of the disc to leak out.
The intervertebral discs are attached to the vertebral bones both above and below them. In addition, there are major ligaments on the front and the back of the spine that attach to the discs and the vertebral bones. Due to these attachments the discs stay firmly in place and cannot slip. "Slipped disc" is a term doctors sometimes use when they are describing a disc bulge/protrusion/herniation injury.
Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD)
With aging and activities in general we can "wear out" certain structures in the body. The discs are one of the most used structures in the body and will wear out over time and with injury. This can cause them to be less effective at absorbing pressure and more prone to injury and pain. If your discs have signs of excessive wear and tear you may be diagnosed with degenerative disc disease.
DISCLAIMER: The information that appears on TheInjuryDoctors.com is presented to our prospective Las Vegas, NV patients who may have sustained injuries related to trauma from car accidents or other sources. The information is presented in summary form only and is intended to provide general understanding of neck injury and back injury topics. The information should not be used in place of a visit, call or consultation with a qualified neck and back doctor with specific training and certification to treat neck and back injuries related to car accidents, falls, or genetic predispositions. TheInjuryDoctors.com does not recommend the self-management of neck and back pain or injury. Information obtained by using TheInjuryDoctors.com is not exhaustive and does not cover all possible risks, ailments, or physical conditions related to car accident injuries or other neck and back injuries. Contact this office to schedule a consultation.
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