Ruptured Disc | Ruptures Discs
A spinal disc (intervertebral disc) is a somewhat malleable structure that is located between the spinal bones to provide protection to the spine, as well as allowing for some movement. An intervertebral disc consists of a solid annulus fibrosis and an inner nucleus pulposus. The whole structure of the disc is designed to slightly bulge out wards when we stand or sit up, putting weight on our spine, and tore resume its shape when we are lying down. This bulge outwards is healthy and normal in individuals with a healthy spine, provided that the disc is healthy and isn't compressed to the point of assuming a shape that will prohibit it from resuming a more block-shaped form once the compression is taken off of it.
Intervertebral discs may lose its healthy shape as a result of a patient injury, or when the outer wall of the disc becomes torn or broken. The deterioration of these discs may be called names such as a bulging discs, herniated discs, or ruptured discs, depending on the cause of the injury or extent of the disc damage. When a disc in the spinal column ruptures, its soft inner material bulges out through a weak area in the hard outer layer. A ruptured disc may cause damage to the nerve roots exiting the spine, resulting in pain and neurologic deficits in the buttocks, legs, and feet.
The vertebrae of the spinal column are separated by discs made of layers of fibrocartilage on the outside of it (annulus fibrosis), and a network of loose fibers and mucoprotein on the inside (nucleus pulposus) on the inside to give it the consistency of jelly. When we put weight on our backs, the discs can absorb the pressures put on the spine by bulging outwards slightly, and the discs may resume its more bricklike form when the we take the pressures off of it. The discs may degenerate and lose its shape or ability to take on pressures as we get older or when we sustain a spinal injury. When we get older, the inner part of the disc can bulge or rupture through the outer layer (herniated disc). The ruptures inner material may leak into the nerve space of the spinal nerves, or the outer layer may bulge outwards to press into the nerve. The spinal nerve may then become irritated to the point where we experience pain or neurologic changes in or legs. In extreme cases, we may experience a complete loss of feeling or the impairment of voluntary bowel movements and urination.
The location of the ruptured disc may affect where we feel pain or neurologic changes in sensation in our body. How badly the nerve root is compressed or damaged determines how severe the pain and other symptoms will be. Though the nerve roots may become compressed and damaged as a result of bulging or ruptured discs, they are rarely damaged to the point that they will lose their ability deliver normal sensations to the back and legs once the cause of the compression is treated.
Treatment. If the nerve root compression is the result arthritis and inflammation for one or more of the joints of the spine, then aspirin and other anti-inflammatories may help to relieve pain. Back exercises may be beneficial to take some of the pressure off the side of the spine where the disc is bulging or rupturing. Some back exercises that may be helpful for back problems include the pelvic tilt, seated toe crunches, and double knee pull.