These are problems to the spinal disks. Disks are the cushion of tissue located between each of the vertebrae which makes up the spine.
What to look for
Many times, there are no physical symptoms to damaged disks. However, if your disk problem directly touches or affects spinal nerves, you may have one or more of the following symptoms:
- sharp pain in the back
- unable to bend or straighten your back, pain.
- gradual development of neck or lower-back pain, possibly intense on arising or when sneezing or coughing.
- numbness or tingling in an arm or leg, and possibly a weakness in either or both legs.
Damaged spinal disks can cause agonising pain and discomfort. When you feel the pain, you need to take that as a warning and to have your body treated as soon as possible before the problem becomes worse and leads to further complications.
The disc are pads of tissue situated between each of the vertebrae which make up the spine. Each disc is made up of a tough, fibrous outer layer and a softer, jelly-like inner layer called the nucleus.
A slipped disc simply means that the tough outer layer cracks open and the softer inner layer protrudes out through the crack. If it presses on any surrounding nerves, it can cause the symptoms of a slipped disc. (see Back Care and Back Pain). This type of damage to a disk can be irreversible.
People often think that the disks are soft and flexible and this is a mistake. The disk starts off soft in childhood and gradually hardens during a lifetime.
By far the majority of disk injuries occur in the lower back. Not all slipped disks press on nerves, however, and for this reason, your doctor will usually order an x-ray to view the problem.
Injury and everyday activity can cause disk problems. Sometimes, though, there is no apparent cause.
Aging is often a cause of disk problems, as the fibrous tissue of the disk becomes harder and more brittle. Severe cases may be the result of a deficiency in collagen, the material that makes up cartilage, poor muscle tone and obesity.
Both conventional and alternative therapies will offer pain relief, rest, steps to reduce inflammation, and measures to restore strength and normal activity. Except in severe cases, herniated disks generally heal themselves, and surgery is rarely necessary.
Doctors usually prescribe bed rest (as any movement can increase the pain and discomfort) and pain killers.
If the disk is just temporarily distorted, the potential for complete recovery is excellent. If the outer membrane actually breaks and loses some of its center, however, the damage may be permanent unless more aggressive steps are taken.
Besides pain relief and rest, alternative therapies tend to focus on relaxation and gentle exercise.
Yoga strengthens back muscles and relaxation to aid in preventing disk problems
When to seek further professional advice
- you experience persistent pain in the upper or lower back
- back pain is accompanied by fever
- you have sudden loss of feeling or weakness in your extremities