Herniated Discs are one of the most common causes of back pain and discomfort in adults. Yet, it remains one of the least understood causes of chronic pain. While most people have heard of the term "Herniated Disc", and most also probably know that it involves something in the spine, many people do not know what it is exactly. It is always important for any kind of back pain to understand the source of the pain, because it is our belief that when the patient understands the source of the pain, the outcome of their treatments turn out much better.
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So, what IS a Herniated Disc?
First, since Herniated Discs are located in the spine, we need to know exactly what the spine is and how it works. This is important because when you understand how the spine works, you will be better able to treat it. Here are some basic facts about the spine and what it does:
- The spine begins at the base of your skull and ends at the top of the buttock region. Its main purpose is to protect the spinal cord.
- It is made up of 24 bones called vertebrae.
- Between each of these vertebra is a disc. These discs have two important responsibilities: to act as shock absorbers for your spine, and to allow the vertebra to move in six directions.
- All of the nerves in the human body begin at the spinal cord. These nerves then exit the spine between the vertebrae and travel throughout the body.
If one or more of those discs in your spine become damaged, they could become herniated. But what does it mean when a disc becomes herniated? To understand that we need to know what the disc is.
Each disc is basically a little rubber cushion whose job is to absorb and lessen the impact on the vertebrae in your spine while you are performing normal activities like walking, running, or jumping. Imagine the disc is like a jelly donut; inside of the disc is a substance that is a lot like jelly that we call the nucleus, and on the outside is a thick protective barrier. This nucleus is what provides the cushioning in the disc. But if the outside element that protects the nucleus deteriorates, it can rupture. This can cause some of the jelly inside the disc to leak out, which is called a herniation.
At the Illinois Back Institute we strive to educate everyone as much as possible about their back pain and sciatica, because it is proven that the more people know about their problem the more likely they are to eliminate it!
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