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Disc Pathology

The majority of the population will experience low back/neck pain at some point in their life. Amongst the causes of low back/neck pain- a common condition is disk pathology. The disks are situated between vertebrae (the bones of the spine) throughout virtually the entire spine. They serve to disperse compressive forces and prevent bone-on-bone contact. The disks are made up of 2 layers. An inner layer that is composed of gelatinous material that moves around with the compressive forces and a tougher more ridged outer layer that keeps the gel layer encompassed and provides the strength of the disk. As we age, the disks naturally lose water content and become more ridge and less resistant to motion. This is a condition referred to as Degenerative Disk Disease (DDD) this a common diagnosis and does not necessarily mean that the low back pain Is a result of this. With DDD the tougher outer third of the disk develops cracks and the inner gel layer can leak into the outer third of the disk where there are nerve endings. When this happens you can develop low back pain. Another disk pathology is Disk herniation- with herniation the gel layer completely leaves the disk and puts pressure on nervous tissue, whether that be the spinal cord a spinal nerve. With this type of injury, pain down the legs is quite common.

It is important to remember that there will be a normal amount of degeneration of the disks that comes with age naturally. There are many people that show disk bulging in MRI imaging that present pain free! This is why it is important to have a medical professional evaluate your quality and quantity of movement to determine the cause of low back pain. True disk injuries tend to be chronic and form over a long period of time. Rarely is there a sudden traumatic event that will cause disk bulging or herniation.

Several treatment options are available to for people suffering from discal low back pain. There are motion based treatment- this will be Physical Therapy- a skilled Doctor of Physical Therapy will listen to you about your symptoms and evaluate your movement and with a combination of therapeutic exercise, soft tissue mobilization, and specific movement techniques to address the position of the injured disk in the spine, some people turn to medication and injections to tame the pain- success has been shown with this but if underlying dysfunctions remain there will continue to be pain in the future. In severe cases when disks have herniated and compressed a nerve leading to extreme weakness in the legs/arms-surgical intervention is possible. It is important to exhaust conservative treatment before considering invasive procedures of the spine.

If you or a loved one has been told you are suffering from a disk pathology such as DDD or a herniation, give your local physical therapist a call and schedule your free consultation. Your PT will listen to you about your symptoms and determine if physical therapy is appropriate for you or if you need to see a specialist physician for your condition. The majority of all discal injuries are treated with physical therapy with great outcomes. So don’t wait! You do not have to live with low back/neck pain, schedule your free consultation today.

In Motion O.C.