How A Disc Becomes Painful in Vacaville

How A Disc Becomes Painful in Vacaville

Chiropractic Vacaville CA How A Disc Becomes Painful

The spine contains spinal discs that come with a unique and well-designed structure. These are built strong wherein they can resist terrific forces in multiple planes of motion, yet it is still very mobile and allows motion in several directions.

Your Vacaville Chiropractor knows that these discs have several functions, which include acting as a shock absorber between the boney vertebral bodies.

Disc anatomy and function

The intervertebral discs resemble a jelly donut. It is made up of a series of bands that form a tough outer layer, then a soft, jelly-like material inside.

Annulus Fibrosus - This is known as the firm, tough outer layer of the disc. The nerves to the disc space only penetrate to the annulus fibrosus' very outer portion. Even though the disc has little innervation in them, it could cause a mild to severe back pain if a tear in the annulus reaches the outer part and the nerves become pinched.

When the degeneration continues, the nerves on the disc's periphery will grow further into the disc space, which will result in pain.

Nucleus pulposus - This is the jelly-like inner disc material that contains a lot of inflammatory proteins. Once this inner disc material leaks out and comes in contact with a nerve root, the nerve root will become inflamed and can radiate pain down the leg or down the arm.

Also, if these inflammatory proteins leak out to the outer annulus and comes in contact with the pain fibers in the area, it will cause neck or low back pain.

When we are born, the disc is made up of 80% water, which provides the spongy quality and allows it to act as a shock absorber. Aging causes the disc to gradually lose its water content, which makes it less capable of acting as a shock absorber.

The protein content of the disc also changes composition that will make most of us develop tears into the annulus fibrosus.

By the time we reach our sixth decade, most people will experience some level of disc degeneration but won't have back pain.

Degenerated disc on an MRI scan in Vacaville

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) has allowed doctors and other professionals to have a deeper understanding of degenerative disc disease and its natural degenerative process. With the MRI technology advancement, good anatomic detail of the disc can be imaged and correlated with the pain of the person.

Through MRI scan studies, it was found that:

  • Majority of young patients with chronic low back pain had evidence of disc degeneration on their MRI scans, and;
  • Up to 30% of young healthy adults have shown a degree of disc degeneration on their MRI scans yet show no signs of back pain.

Variability in degenerative disc disease

There's no clear explanation as to why some degenerative discs are painful and some are not. There are a couple of reasons why discs can become painful.

Here are some theories about degenerative disc disease:

  • If a disc is degenerated or injured, it can become painful due to the resultant instability from the disc injury. This can lead to an inflammatory reaction and causes low back pain in the process.
  • Some people have nerve endings that penetrate deeper into the outer annulus more than others. This could make the degenerative disc more susceptible to pain and become the source.

While there are no known causes, these theories were agreed as to how a disc degenerates over time.


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9:00am - 1:00pm
2:00pm - 7:00pm




Absolute Integrative Physical Medicine

1490 Alamo Drive Suite B
Vacaville, CA 95687

(707) 474-5688