Different Types of Disk Injuries

Vertebral disks are small, round, rubbery structures found between the bones of your spine. They help to allow you to move and provide protection for bones and nerves. However, they are susceptible to injury.

There are many different names for disk injuries. They can be described as slipped, herniated, ruptured, or bulging. With so many different names, you may think that there are many different ways that the disks can be injured.

However, the different names are somewhat deceptive. Slipped disk, ruptured disk, and herniated disk are all different names for the same type of injury. On the other hand, a bulging disk is something slightly different.

Disk Anatomy

Vertebral disks consist of two layers. The outer layer is called the annulus. It consists of tough, rubbery cartilage. The inner layer is called the nucleus. It consists of a soft, gel-like substance. Together, the two different parts of the disk help to cushion the bones of the spine and allow them to move without rubbing up against one another. The disks also help to absorb shock from any blow to the spine.

Disk Injuries

A ruptured disk occurs when the annulus becomes torn. The nucleus can then leak out from the opening that results, much like the air might leak out of a punctured tire or the filling might leak out of a hole in a jelly donut. As the nucleus leaks out, it can put pressure on the nerve roots that extend out from the spine. This can cause symptoms such as pain, numbness, and tingling.

Where a herniated disk is often caused by an acute injury, a bulging disk occurs over time. Wear and tear on the annulus can cause the cartilage to weaken. When this occurs, it allows the nucleus to spread out beyond its usual confines. However, the annulus does not tear, so the nucleus is still contained within it. The bulging of the annulus and nucleus together can also put pressure on the nerve roots, just as a slipped disk can. Therefore, the symptoms of each can be similar.

Because multiple disks can be subject to similar pressures over time, it is fairly common to have more than one bulging disk occur at once. However, because ruptured disks usually result from traumatic injury, they usually occur in isolation.

Though disk injuries are most common in the low back, they can occur at any level of the spine. In the neck, they can cause pain, numbness, and tingling of the upper extremities. Chiropractic care, like Back Pain Doctor, may be helpful in treating back and neck pain. Schedule an appointment by calling our office.