In between each vertebra in the spine sits a donut-shaped disc that provides cushioning between the vertebrae and flexibility of the spine. When healthy, these discs have an outer shell that is soft and pliable and are filled with fluid to add to the cushion.
As we age, however, this fluid is prone to drying out, and as the discs begin to lose their shape and elasticity, back pain and spinal conditions can develop. When this pain is caused by an issue of a disc, it is usually referred to as a slipped, bulging, or herniated disc.
The term “slipped disc” is all-encompassing and refers to a general change in disc physiology. This can either be the shape, position overall health. Although discs themselves rarely “slip” and move entirely out of place, there are conditions under this term that can create significant pain and potentially other issues.
A bulging disc, however, is a specific condition referring to a disc that has been compressed on one side, causing fluid pressure to build on the other. This can create significant pain and tenderness in the area around the disc. However, many people have bulging discs with minimal or no pain, and the condition is only known from diagnostic imaging.
If the pressure from the fluid inside the disc is great enough, it can cause a split in the shell of the disc that allows the fluid to leak. The body is not naturally able to replace the lost fluid or repair the damaged disc. This can cause similar but more severe pain than a bulging disc.
Despite their importance in providing separation and cushioning between vertebrae, herniated or bulging discs are not repaired naturally by the body. However, conservative treatments such as physical therapy and injections of corticosteroids are very successful. Following treatment, specific exercises and lifestyle changes can help keep the pain at bay.
However, if the pain does not subside with conservative treatment, or if the spinal cord becomes compressed between the vertebrae, surgical intervention may be required and is always the last option.
If you are suffering from chronic back pain, contact the team at Princeton Neurological Surgery in New Jersey. The expert surgeons and team will create a treatment plan that is safe and effective at reducing your pain. Call us at 609-890-3400 or visit www.princetonneurologicalsurgery.com to schedule a comprehensive exam.