Why our intervertebral discs cannot slip!

Our intervertebral discs lie between adjacent vertebrae and are made up of a central, gelatinous nucleus pulposus which is surrounded by a tough but elastic annulus fibrosis. They allow movement between the adjacent vertebrae but also act as shock absorbers and weight bearers. When pressure is received from the vertebral body above, the nucleus pulposus distributes the pressure in every direction.  

Our super robust intervertebral discs are interwoven with the vertebra and are also supported by anterior and posterior ligaments that run the length of the spine.

Our discs therefore cannot “slip” out of place but they can herniate, prolapse, rupture or bulge.

These terms essentially mean that part of the disc has started to press into an area that it’s not meant to be in.

The cause of this is not fully understood.

We now realise that up to 50% of prolapsed discs can spontaneously repair.

The prevalence of prolapsed discs increases with age.

There is not often a correlation between a prolapse/bulge and symptoms. You can have lower back pain and no prolapse or a prolapse and no lower back pain.

Move your spine through it’s full range of motion in a controlled way on a regular basis.

References:

1. Brinjikji W, et al. Systematic Literature Review of Imaging Features of Spinal Degeneration in Asymptomatic Populations. American Journal of Neuroradiology 2015;36(4):811-816

2. Beattie P. Current Understanding of Lumbar Intervertebral Disc Degeneration: A Review With Emphasis Upon Etiology, Pathophysiology, and Lumbar Magnetic Resonance Imaging Findings. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy 2008;38(6):329–340

3. Chiu CC, et al. The Probability of spontaneous regression of lumbar herniated disc: a systematic review. Clin Rehabil 2015;29(2):184-195