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  • Writer's pictureDr Claire Chittleborough

Understanding Disc Injuries: From Annular Tears to Disc Prolapse and Discitis

Have you ever experienced back pain that seems to nag you endlessly? Disc-related injuries could be the root cause of your discomfort. Disc injuries are quite common, and they can range from mild annoyances to more serious conditions. Read on if you’d like to know more, but if you just want pain relief now (or if you’re suffering from something else) we invite you to stop reading and call 0413 774 399 to make an appointment with Dr Claire instead.

Annular Tears - The Prelude to Disc Prolapse:

So, let's start at the beginning with annular tears. Imagine your spinal discs as soft cushions sitting between the vertebrae of your spine. These discs have a tough outer layer called the annulus fibrosus and a soft, jelly-like centre known as the nucleus pulposus. (We agree – that is fun to say!)

An annular tear occurs when the outer layer of the disc weakens or develops a small tear, usually due to repetitive stress or a sudden injury. Think of it like a tiny crack in the shell of an egg. Most of the time, these tears cause no symptoms, but they can be a precursor to more severe issues like disc prolapse.

Disc Prolapse - Different Degrees of "Slipped Discs":

When we talk about disc prolapse, you might have heard it referred to as a "slipped disc." The disc doesn't actually slip out of place, but rather the soft centre (nucleus pulposus) protrudes through the weakened annulus fibrosus. This can put pressure on nearby nerves, leading to pain and discomfort.

Disc prolapse can range from mild to severe, and the symptoms will vary accordingly. In mild cases, you might experience occasional discomfort and stiffness, while in more severe instances, you might have sharp, shooting pain down your legs, weakness, or even numbness. It's crucial to pay attention to these symptoms. It can get worse over time if ignored so call for an appointment with us sooner rather than later so we can give your discs the care they deserve.

Discitis - The Inflammatory Culprit:

Now, let's talk about discitis. This is a less common but significant condition where the intervertebral disc becomes infected or inflamed. Sometimes it’s caused by bacterial infection. Frustratingly, sometimes the cause might remain unclear. Whatever the cause it can create pain! Discitis can affect people of all ages, but it's more commonly seen in children and older adults.

The symptoms of discitis can be quite similar to those of other disc-related injuries, such as back pain, limited mobility, and discomfort. However, you might also experience fever and chills if there's an infection involved. This is why we take such care to get to know you and your medical history – not just individual aches and pains – during consultations. Conditions may have superficially similar symptoms but require different treatments. If we suspect you have discitis we’ll refer you to other medical professionals to deal with the bacterial infection while we assist with pain relief and mobility.

Your Spine's Best Friend:

So, how can we help? Chiropractors are trained experts in the musculoskeletal system, including the spine. We’ll use a variety of non-invasive techniques to assess, diagnose, and treat your disc-related aches and pains.

Spinal Alignment and Nerve Impingement:

Chiropractors focus on the alignment of the spine because it plays a crucial role in maintaining the health of your intervertebral discs and nerves. When the spine is misaligned, it can put excessive pressure on certain discs, leading to bulging or herniation. This misalignment can also cause nerve impingement, where the compressed nerves can cause pain, tingling, or numbness.

Chiropractors use spinal adjustments, also known as spinal manipulations, to carefully realign the vertebrae. By applying controlled force to specific areas of the spine, they can restore proper alignment, reducing pressure on the affected discs and nerves. This can help relieve pain and improve overall function.

Decompression Techniques:

For patients with disc prolapse or herniation, chiropractors may use decompression techniques to create negative pressure within the affected disc. This negative pressure can help draw the protruded disc material back into its proper place, alleviating pressure on the nerves and reducing pain.

One common decompression technique is spinal traction, where a chiropractor gently stretches the spine to create the desired negative pressure. This can be done manually or with the help of specialised equipment.

Muscle and Joint Support:

Chiropractors understand that it's not just about the discs but the surrounding muscles and joints as well. Weak or imbalanced muscles can put additional strain on the spine, exacerbating disc injuries. Therefore, chiropractors often incorporate muscle-strengthening exercises and joint mobilisation into their treatment plans.

By strengthening the core and back muscles, patients can better support their spines, reducing the risk of further disc-related issues. Improved joint mobility can also alleviate stress on the discs and help with overall spinal function.

So, if you find yourself struggling with back pain or suspect you might have a disc-related injury, please call 0413 774 399 to make an appointment. We’ll provide gentle and non-invasive treatments that may help alleviate your discomfort and promote healing. We hope you found this information useful.

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