Your spinal column is made up of three different kinds of bones. These are the:
Lumbar vertebrae: These bones are located at the base of your spine, just above your hips. It’s these strong bones that bear the weight of your entire spinal column. It’s therefore important that these bones remain strong.
Thoracic vertebrae: These are the bones found towards the middle of your spine. They are located right behind your chest region. These vertebrae are slightly smaller than the five lumbar vertebrae at the bottom of your spine. Your thoracic vertebrae are designed to assist your flexibility of movement when you swivel from side to side.
Cervical vertebrae: These are the spinal bones found right at the base of your neck. These vertebrae have the primary aim of supporting your head and neck.
Your Spinal Discs
Between each of your vertebrae you have intervertebral discs. These discs act as the shock absorbers of your body, holding the vertebrae together and allowing you to move freely.
Each of these discs has an outer fibrous bony tissue known as the annulus fibrosus. Inside these boney tissues is the nucleus pulposus, which is a clear jelly like substance.
An injury to your spinal column may cause disc defragmentation or herniation. If your spinal disc is herniated or ruptured, the nucleus pulposus begins to leak from it. When the outer annulus fibrosus is ruptured, your body will release an inflammatory chemical, which can cause severe pain.
Disc herniation is usually caused by constant wear and tear. Desk jobs that require constant sitting may cause herniation of the spinal discs. This is due to continuous pressure placed on the discs while sitting, which can be combated by strengthening your core.
A herniated disk is also often caused by intense pressure on the disc by the vertebrae located above and below it. Such injuries are caused when a person lifts heavy objects improperly or by sudden twisting.
Where in the Spine Can a Disc be Injured?
Any of the spinal discs can be injured through either overuse or traumatic injuries. All three regions of your vertebrae, the cervical, thoracic and the lumbar are susceptible to spinal disk injuries. However, since your lumbar vertebrae bear the most weight, they are the most easy to injure.
The cervical discs, when used intensively, such as when reading or with excessive use of the computer, may also be injured. The discs in the thoracic region are the least susceptible to injury. They are usually only injured when the spine receives trauma, such as in an accident or sporting injury.
What are the Symptoms of Disc Injuries?
The exact symptoms of disc pain vary from one patient to another. The most common symptom of disc injury is persistent achey pain in the affected region.
Some people with cervical disc injuries may experience the sensation of pins and needles in their limbs – particularly arms and fingers. Other people with lumbar disc injuries may experience pins and needles in their legs and feet.
Those with thoracic disc injuries may feel patches of numbness or tingling in their back in line with the region of injury. This is usually due to an irritation of the nerves either from disc herniation onto the nerve, local inflammation or muscle spasm. In certain cases, where there has been a trauma to the lower spine, a person may experience a loss of control of bowel and bladder movements. This condition is known as Cauda Equina syndrome and causes numbness / paresthesia in the genital region. This is a serious condition and must be treated as an emergency.
How did I cause my disc injury?
An injury is usually caused by a forceful movement in your neck or spine. You may have bended at an odd angle or tried to lift a heavy object. Other causes of disc injuries include car accidents, sports injuries and falls.
In the elderly, the disc may degenerate naturally, causing disc pathology.
How Long Will I Have Back Pain?
There is no easy answer to this question. If you have your condition treated immediately, you may achieve long term pain relief within only a few treatments. However, the extent of injury also decides the prognosis. In general, the longer you have had your back pain, the longer it takes to successfully treat.
How Can Osteopathy Help?
Osteopathy is a globally recognised form of manual medicine that cares for the musculoskeletal system. Osteopathy can help to relieve inflammation and local spasms in your muscles. In all but the most extreme cases, osteopathy can work to realign the spine and remove postural issues that affect the site of the injury.
To aid your recovery, your osteopath will give you specific strengthening exercises to improve the strength of your spine and aid your recovery.
How Does Surgery Help?
As surgery is invasive and strives to make permanent changes, you need to take the time to fully understand the risks involved. Surgery should not be viewed as an easy first option, but should instead be considered one of the last options, if other treatment methods have been unsuccessful.
There are many different types of back pain surgery options available. A laminectomy may be performed, which involves taking out a section of your vertebra to relieve pressure from the herniated disc. Other options include a vertebral fusion, in which your upper and lower vertebrae are fused together. Alternatively you could also have a discectomy in which the disc is either removed or replaced.