Herniated and Injured Discs
The discs in our spine can become injured as a result of accidents, repetitive stress, lifting and twisting events. Injured discs often cause pain. Discs have an outer series of rings that wrap around the core or nucleus. The outer ring fibers are called the annulus fibrosus. The inner nucleus pulposus is a gelatinous substance that is firmly held in place by the outer annulus.
What Causes Disc Pain?
When injury occurs to the disc, the rings of the outer annulus break and the gelatinous nucleus material pushes through the break in the fibers. Often the nucleus material pushes against a nerve causing symptoms of pain along the area that the nerve supplies. If the nerve controls movement, the person may experience weakness in the area the nerve stimulates. If the nucleus material of the disc protrudes, it is called a herniated disc. If it is torn internally, it is called a disrupted disc. If it is losing disc material into the spinal canal, it is called a leaking disc.
Treating Herniated Discs
Treatment of disc pain depends on the type of injury to the disc. The disc itself has pain sensation, and even if the disc is not putting pressure on a nerve, a person can experience pain from a disrupted or leaking disc. The disrupted disc pain is called discogenic pain and is treated differently from a herniated disc pushing on a nerve. It is, therefore, important to carefully evaluate each patient and arrive at the correct diagnosis. Imaging studies, CT Scans and MRIs are helpful in making a diagnosis. Discograms are sometimes necessary to confirm the diagnosis of an internally disrupted or leaking disc as the cause of the individual’s pain.
Minimally Invasive Procedures are available at the Palm Beach Spine & Diagnostic Institute
Discograms are performed by injecting a suspected painful disc with a liquid that can be seen on x-ray. At the time of injection, x-rays are taken that show it’s internal structure and integrity. It is also possible to measure the pressures inside the disc at that time to physiologically determine the structure’s capability. Once the diagnosis is made, minimally invasive procedures are available to treat the disc injury without surgery.
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