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Posted on 08-03-2017

All You Need to Know About Your Discs and Chiropractic Treatment in Mississauga

Someone suffering from disc pain due to poor posutre

Your spinal discs are an integral part of your spine. The discs have numerous functions that are important to not only the structure, but also to the function of the spine and the surrounding nervous system. These discs sit in between each vertebrae of the spine, with a total of 23 discs throughout the whole spinal column.  We’ve broken down all there is to know about the discs and why it’s so important to take the proper precautions to ensure your spinal discs are as healthy as can be. 

Anatomy of the Disc

Discs are made up of two components: the annulus fibrosous (the tough outer exterior) and the nucleus pulposus (the inner core of the disc). The main role of the outer fibers of the disc is to help create a tough surrounding so that the disc can withstand shock or forces that come through the body and spine. It does so by evenly distributing the pressure and force throughout the structure of the disc. The inner core is made up of a gel-like substance and relies on this substance to withstand load. At birth, 80% of your disc is composed of water and feeds into the inner core. Therefore, it’s important that the discs are well-hydrated to maintain its structure and function. Spinal discs are avascular, meaning that they don’t have a direct source of blood flow, which makes it more difficult for them to heal after internal damage. It relies on hydration and the blood vessels of the surrounding spine to gather nutrients to keep it in tact. Spinal discs are at their largest height in the morning, and start to lose some of its height with regular compression throughout the day. 

Function of the Disc 

The spinal disc has functions that are important for both the structure and the function of the spine. As mentioned above, one of the more understood roles of the disc is that it acts as a shock absorber. Because of their structure, a healthy disc is able to evenly distribute loads or forces that act on the spine so that your joints don’t have to take on added stress.

Additionally, it acts as a placer that holds your vertebrae in proper position. The discs have muscle and ligament attachments in between each vertebrae to allow proper alignment and curvature of the spine. Another very important function of the disc is in relation to their height. Spinal discs also have to maintain proper height so that nerves have a passageway through your spine. If the discs start to lose their normal height, then the passageway for these nerves start to get smaller, and could potentially affect communication trying to get through it.   

Common Disc Problems

Disc Bulge – over time, due to regular wear and tear, spinal discs are susceptible to changes in their structure. Discs are susceptible to dehydration and as a result, the cartilage in the disc starts to stiffen. Due to this, the disc isn’t able to maintain its proper height and starts to bulge around its circumference. This is similar to a balloon when you press down on it and it bulges out, taking up more of the surrounding area. This only involves the outer area of the disc and can cause compression of nerves and stress on the surrounding spine. 

Disc Herniation – often thought to be a “slipped disc”, the disc actually doesn’t slip at all. Herniations can start off as a disc bulge, but due to the wear and tear on the disc, not only the outer portion, but the inner core of the disc is affected. With sustained stress, the outer core of the disc starts to crack and allows leakage of the gel and cartilage within the inner core of the disc. Disc herniations are often more painful than disc bulges because the leakage can reach and compress further structures, such as nerves and nerve roots. This can lead to painful sensations, both locally and radiating through extremities, and additionally can lead to numbness, tingling and weakness through the course of the nerve. Both herniations and bulges can also be a source of sciatic pain, as discs can compress the nerve roots for the sciatic nerve in the low back.   

Disc Degeneration – although most commonly seen in an aging population, signs of disc degeneration can be seen in younger generations if there is enough sustained stress on the spine. Disc degeneration is a compensatory reaction to disc changes, whether it’s dehydration, loss of height or just regular wear and tear. As a result, the disc becomes more rigid and loses its flexibility and pliability, which are important qualities for their functions. This can then lead to stiffness and rigidity in the movement of your spine. Additionally, this has a direct impact on the function of your nervous system, as passageways for your nerves can start to decrease in size and affecting overall communication. Disc degeneration can be painful, but most importantly limiting for the overall function of your spine. 

What can I do to maintain Disc Health?

Posture – make sure you’re maintaining proper posture with any activity is crucial to your spinal health. Jobs and every day activities may require us to bend and twist, and if it’s not done properly it can lead to unnatural stress on the spine, especially if done repeatedly, without allowing your discs to regenerate. Many jobs or activities require us to sit down for long periods of time as well, which is also unnatural for the spine if sustained for a long time. It is important to make sure you take breaks from sitting down to prevent sustained stress on the spine and its discs. 

Sleep – this is a very important component to maintaining spinal health. Sleep allows your body to rest and regenerate to prepare for the next day. Most specifically for your discs, this allows them to absorb the necessary amounts of water in order to regain its normal height. Therefore, it is important that you are getting the proper amount of sleep at night to regain your normal disc heights. 

Drinking water – your discs are very dependent on your water intake in order to regain normal disc height after so much wear and tear throughout the day. Lack of water intake will eventually lead to disc dehydration, as there is no regular source of water for the discs to pull from. Common suggestions is to drink at least 8-10 cups of water per day, but also depends on your diet and how much physical activity you do throughout the day. 

Chiropractic care – spinal discs are directly impacted by the alignment of your spine. When the spine is misaligned, this causes abnormal movement and undue stress on the disc, which can attribute to early degeneration. Chiropractic adjustments can also help open up spaces for discs to do their work and prevent degeneration from occurring within the discs and joints. Disc degeneration can occur without a sign or symptom, so it’s best to get your spine checked by your Mississauga Chiropractor in order to see how healthy your spine and discs actually are.   

Call our Mississauga Chiropractor Today to Alleviate and Treat Discomfort from a Disc

If you have any other questions or concerns, or would like to speak to any of our chiropractors, do not hesitate to contact us at (905) 821-4951 and book an appointment with us today. 

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