The intervertral disc, a cartilaginous material located between each of the spinal vertebras, serves as a shock absorber by absorbing the force of the body´s gravitational weight and provides a separation between the two connected vertebrae. With all other factors remaining constant, the thickness of the intervertebral disc is directly proportional to the size of the hole formed from in between the vertebrae. This is of utmost importance because the hole exists solely for the purpose of enabling the spinal nerves to pass through. Therefore, the thicker the intervertebral disc, the greater the likelihood that there will not be an irritation to these nerves. When the discs are healthy and the vertebras aligned, the spine is able to move freely in all directions.
Analogous to a wet sponge, when the disc is hydrated, it becomes more voluminous and possesses more cushioning properties. A driedout disc, on the other hand, is rigid and more susceptible to injury.
Intervertebral discs, by nature, have very poor blood supply and therefore depend on articular fluids in order to supply nutrients and remove waste residues. If a vertebra loses its normal movement, this exchange process is impeded and the condition of the disc deteriorates. This degenerative process in which the disc dries out is called degenerative disc disease.
Trauma (or repeated micro-traumas) and poor postures, can cause the disc to rupture or herniate. The bulging or herniated discs can press against the spinal cord and nerve roots. This results in an interference in proper nervous system function that may provoke pain. (Sometimes there is no pain associated with herniated or protruded discs).
The chiropractic management of those suffering with disc problems is to help reestablish normal movement and position to the vertebrae. Futhermore, by reducing the disc bulging, this will improve the nervous system function and decrease inflammation allowing the slow healing process of the surrounding soft tissues to begin.