Most people never think about their spinal column unless there's something wrong with it. No wonder! Our bodies are incredibly complex. Out of sight, out of mind. But your spine has the all-important job of protecting the millions of important nerves that transmit life-giving messages to all your organs. If the spinal cord encounters unusual pressures, its normal function can be significantly damaged, causing a lot of pain and dysfunction.
The most common reason for spinal cord impingement is disc herniation. A disc herniation affecting the spinal cord (a vertical dark gray strip surrounded by light gray fluid) can be seen in the picture to the left. See how the spinal cord is kinked about two thirds of the way down? That physical kink is no doubt causing serious problems for this person, as nerves controlling his arms, hands, and other body parts and organs are no longer working correctly.
Your discs are extremely important. They cushion the spinal column, allow your spine to move in a wide variety of directions, and maintain proper spinal curvatures because of their precise shapes. But your discs are also vulnerable: they have no direct blood supply, relying exclusively on motion to provide them with nutrition from surrounding fluids. If a disc does not receive proper motion or nutrition, it can dry out or die.
Dead discs are often seen in degenerative disc disease. Dried out discs can herniate (a "slipped disc"): that is, the central part of the disc can slide out from its proper home between the vertebrae. Discs usually herniate towards the spinal cord. Many disc herniations are accompanied by no symptoms at all, but if the nervous system is directly impacted, the symptoms can be very serious.
If the disc herniation is in your low back, you may have pain or numbness traveling down your legs or you may experience problems with abdominal or pelvic organs. If the disc herniation is your neck, you may have pain or numbness traveling down your arms. You may also have extreme pain whenever you attempt to move the affected part of the spine itself.
How We Can Help Your Disc Problems
Although no doctor can force your disc to regrow short of invasive surgery, there are several conservative techniques that can be attempted to relieve your disc symptoms and even reduce the amount of herniation.
The essential task to restore the proper amount of motion to the affected area. Since discs are fed by motion, the increased nutrition to the discs that results from motion can often halt the progression of degenerative disc disease. And the application of precise movements in specific directions can often halt or reverse the progression of disc herniations and their symptoms.
The gentle chiropractic adjustment and axial spinal decompression are standard, safe, and effective treatments for a variety of disc conditions. Dr. Johnson of Johnson Family Chiropractic of Peoria has helped many patients avoid costly surgeries for their low back and neck disc problems.
For specific details on some conditions, please visit our pages on Degenerative Disc Disease and Disc Herniations.