The components of the spine – vertebrae, discs, nerves – are quite small when we look at them individually. If a problem occurs in any one of these small, moving parts, big problems may follow. Chronic neck or back pain affects millions of people and causes thousands of days of missed work each year. One of the common reasons for back pain, a herniated disc, is s problem we want to spotlight here.
One Little Disc, So Much Pain
A spinal disc is a small, spongy cylinder that sits between two vertebrae. There is a total of 33 vertebrae in the spine and each pair has a disc. The role that discs play is “shock absorber.” Without the cushiony bounce of discs, vertebral bodies would rub up against one another and cause friction. Bones are no meant to meet; there is always a buffer in between. In the spine, the discs buffer the impact of movements as benign as walking or as intense as an automobile accident.
The term “herniated disc” is often used interchangeably with “slipped disc.” What the term means is that a tear has occurred in a disc and that it is significant enough to allow the gelatinous inner fluid to leak out. This can cause noticeable pain when the gel comes into contact with the nerve roots in the immediate area. Nerve roots are extremely sensitive to stimulation and may respond with a dull ache or intense, debilitating pain.
What causes a herniated disc?
It is not uncommon for us to hear a patient say “but I didn’t do anything to injure my back.” The misconception here is that back injuries like herniated discs only occur if we’ve done something like fallen down or been in a car accident. The truth is, a herniated disc may originate with repetitive motions or simple wear and tear. Walking creates wear and tear on the spine. Sitting for long periods does, as well.
Herniated Disc Treatment
Many people feel apprehensive to talk with a specialist about chronic back or neck pain because they believe they will be told they need surgery. Typically, even a spinal surgeon will suggest conservative treatments first. In our Tampa office, patients can alleviate back pain with a simple laser discectomy and decompression procedure. The technique used by Dr. Watson has helped numerous patients regain mobility and quality of life.