Right now, while you are sitting there
reading this, your spinal discs are slowly deteriorating.
no need for panic. It is an extraordinarily slow process. But it is occurring.
You cannot feel the slow deterioration of spinal discs. You are likely to be aware of your discs only in circumstances
involving an injury such as a sprain, fall, auto collision or other mishap.
Proper spinal care essential for healthy spinal discs.
The best way to slow this deterioration is to maintain healthy function of your spinal joints. That involves
not only avoiding injury, but taking action to keep your discs healthy as well.
Spinal discs are naturally very strong.
The design of spinal discs provides incredible stability
and ability to withstand pressure, but also allow very diverse movement. The key to that versatile maneuverability is the
ball-bearing-like center of the disc, called the nucleus. In a healthy disc, this nucleus acts like a bearing upon which the
vertebra above rests and can tilt in any direction.
spinal discs absorb shock well.
Because the nucleus in a healthy disc is compressible, like a strong rubber ball,
it also provides shock absorption. The magnificent strength and stability is provided by the outer portion of the spinal disc.
The disc is made of several components
Surrounding the nucleus are multiple layers of fibrous bands
called the annulus. The annular fibers wrap the nucleus to strengthen the compressive resistance in the shock absorber role.
They also maintain limitations on the movement to keep the spinal joint from becoming displaced.
These fibers originate in the vertebra above the disc and insert into the vertebra
below the disc, thereby containing the nucleus. They are oriented at a forty-five degree angle, with each successive layer
being angled in the opposite direction.
last a lifetime.
Although many people are beset by back injuries and sometimes disability, considering all that
our spinal joints endure in a lifetime, it is amazing that the discs hold up as long as they do.
There is no suitable man-made replacement for a spinal disc.
engineers create a product similar to a human disc out of the finest available man-made materials, the results are dismal
compared to actual human discs.
Spinal degeneration makes
a person vulnerable to back injury.
Human discs often stay functional throughout our entire life except in cases
of severe degeneration or injury. However, the degeneration that is slowly occurring as we live day to day makes us vulnerable
to spinal disability.
All discs degenerate to some degree.
this is usually a naturally slow process. Disc degeneration occurs more rapidly after discs have been injured, even mildly.
Injuries to the spine typically involve micro-tears of the connective tissues of the spine, including the discs.
Injuries often initiate spinal disc degeneration processes that are not discovered for years.
As a result
of these injuries, the disc degeneration speeds up considerably. However, the disc deterioration resulting from injury is
often not discovered until several years after the injury.
fixation or dysfunction can accelerate spinal disc degeneration.
One aspect of a spinal injury that affects
the discs is the loss of motion that occurs in the joints that are injured. Just like any other joint that is injured, a spinal
joint that has been sprained will immediately become fixated to some degree. This fixation often continues unnoticed for years.
The patient may be aware that they have lost some overall spinal flexibility, but often they are not aware of the specific
spinal joint fixation.
This fixation is the primary reason
that accelerated disc degeneration occurs following injury. Normal spinal joint motion pumps fluids and nutrients into the
disc and removes waste products of cellular metabolism. This lack of motion results in decreased spinal disc fluid, decreased
cellular nutrition and build-up of metabolic toxins.
care can improve the actual function of the discs and joints and slow the process of degeneration.
If the spinal
joints are restored to full function by manual treatment such as chiropractic manipulation and rehab exercises promptly after
an injury, the health of the spinal disc is improved.
degeneration can be detected with proper evaluation.
When I examine a person with spinal complaints, I look for
areas of decreased spinal function that may indicate spinal disc degenerative changes. In many cases imaging such as x-ray
or MRI will be helpful as well.
Proper treatment can slow the process
of spinal disc degeneration and help spinal discs last a lifetime. This is important, since there are no truly successful
man-made replacements for an injured spinal disc.
Dr. Mark Kestner