The spinal column is a vertical line-up of multiple segments. Each spinal segment serves a portion of the body. For example, the lumbar spinal segment is involved in functions and mobility from the waist down. The cervical spinal segment sends nerves up and out to power the upper limbs. In each spinal segment, there is a certain number of bones (vertebrae). Looking at the spine as a stack, we see bone-disc-bone-disc and so on. Discs serve the important role of cushioning as well as maintaining adequate distance from one vertebra to the next. Without adequate space, nerve compression usually develops.
The Spinal Disc Deconstructed
If we were to take a spinal disc apart, we would see that, beneath a fibrous, semi-rigid outer shell, there is a soft inner core, somewhat like a jelly donut. The gelatinous fluid in the core of a disc is what facilitates cushioning during physical movement. The outer shell is more durable so that the inner gel stays put. Spinal discs may be injured by physical trauma such as a car accident. More often, though, what happens is the outer layer of the disc wears down over time. Without the necessary durability in the outer disc, the overall structure loses height. At some point, the inner fluid may begin to leak out, exacerbating collapse.
To say that a disc is collapsed is not to say that it has completely flattened. In fact, a collapsed disc may result in milder symptoms than a herniated disc. Still, symptoms may eventually develop because, as nature would have it, a degrading disc is going to narrow the nerve passageways out of that segment of the spine. When this happens, symptoms such as tingling, numbness, pain, and muscle weakness will likely develop somewhere along the affected nerve path.
Getting Help for Back or Neck Pain
Historically, the process of treating chronic or acute neck or back pain was pretty complicated. Surgical procedures were invasive and much riskier than they are today. Now, disc problems can be treated without complex techniques. In our Tampa office, patients are often surprised at how easy it is to resolve discomfort through innovative laser discectomy techniques.
We understand how back and neck pain can degrade quality of life. We’re here to help you regain comfort. To learn more, call (813) 920-3022.