The disk is situated between the vertebrae that make up the spine. The disks allow the spine to flex, extend and rotate, and provide a degree of shock absorption in the torso. The intervertebral disks are a prevalent source of lower back pain as they are one of the most frequently injured spinal structures. The structure of the spinal disk resembles a jelly filled doughnut. The inner aspect of the disk contains a gel-like substance called the nucleus polposus. Surrounding the nucleus are tough fibrocartilagenous fibers called the annulus fibrosus.
There are 3 main types of disk injuries. In the first type of disk injury, referred to as a disk bulge or protrusion, the inner nucleus loses hydration. This results in bulging of the disk much like a tire bulges when it contains inadequate amounts of air. The nearby spinal nerves may become impinged from the bulging or protruding disk, or the spinal cord itself could be compressed. The second disk injury consists of annular fiber tears which do not extend to the outer aspects of the disk. Thus, the inner nuclear material is prevented from completely escaping the disk.
The third type of disk injury, commonly referred to as a disk herniation, consists of annular tears which run from the innermost aspects of the annulus (where the nucleus is) to the outermost aspects of the annulus. In this type of injury, the pressurized nuclear material can squeeze through the tears in the annulus and escape to the outside of the disk.
When this occurs, the nuclear material may come in contact with nearby spinal nerves and even the sac that contains the spinal cord.
Treatment for disk injuries include passive physical therapy (hot packs, ultrasound, cold packs), active physical therapy range of motion exercises, stretching, strength conditioning), medicine (pain medication, anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants), epidural steroid injections, a variety of surgical procedures, and TENS unit (transcutaneous electro-nerve stimulator), which sends electrical impulses to block pain signals.
Intervertebral disk injuries can cause considerable pain and disability.
For related information go to: Back Injuries, Chronic Pain Syndrome, Footdrop, Insurance Bad Faith, Medical Malpractice, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Neck Injuries, Negligence Law, Nerve Injuries, Pain, Premises Liability, Products Liability and Radiculopathy.
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