Disc Injuries: What You Need to Know

acl tear advanced pmrBy: Dr. Francis Stewart PT, DPT

Intervertebral discs are the spacers between each bone in the spine. They are made up of fiber and cartilage, with a fluid filled center. Their function is similar to the shock absorbers on a car. When any force or stress is placed through the spine, the discs will absorb some of that force and displace it throughout your body. This is important because it helps to protect the bones in your back from serious injury.

Just like any structure, the intervertebral discs in our spines are not immune to injury. Often times, they can be injured just by bending over to pick up that extra potato chip you dropped on the ground. Or maybe you tried out a new lifting exercise at the gym and felt a “pop” in your back. In many cases, they often are “injured” simply just through the rigors of daily life. Physical therapy comes into play by helping to correctly identify these often misunderstood injuries and getting you back to whatever you love doing.

It is important to identify that the pain you are experiencing correlates with a disc injury. An MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) will show if there is damage to a disc or other tissue in your back. However, large portions of the population actually have a classified disc injury shown on an MRI but have no pain or symptoms associated with that finding. In contrast, several people may have significant back pain without a disc injury. Your physical therapist will use their examination skills and clinical knowledge to identify these injuries and prescribe a comprehensive treatment program tailored to you. So if you have injured your back and think you have lost some of your shock absorption, seeking physical therapy treatment will help you get back to living life the way you want to.

https://www.spineuniverse.com/anatomy/intervertebral-discs
(Link to basic disc anatomy)
http://www.ajnr.org/content/early/2014/11/27/ajnr.A4173.full.pdf
(Link to study of disc abnormalities on asymptomatic population)

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