The disc is a soft tissue structure that sits between the bodies of two connecting vertebrae. The function of the disc is to assist with vertebral motion and absorb shock to the spine. A healthy disc has a tough cartilage ring (annulus) and a soft gel-like inside (nucleus). This anatomy allows for optimal support for the vertebrae.
When injured, the tough outer cartilage fibers can tear, similar to a ligament sprain. If the tear is severe, the nucleus may bulge or completely break through the outer ring, resulting in a disc herniation. Disc herniations may occur from a single injury or from years of wear and tear, and excessive postural stress.
Most disc injuries will heal with conservative therapies including anti-inflammatories, positional techniques and exercise, strengthening the surrounding muscles, and correcting poor postures and spinal mechanics. MedX exercise has been shown to be successful in patients avoiding surgical procedures, because the strong muscles resulting from training provide an optimal support system for the structures in the spine.
Additional measures that may help prevent low back pain or a herniated disc include:
Maintaining an ideal body weight. This reduces the load on your lower back.
Regular exercise (both aerobic and strength exercise).
Quitting smoking. Nicotine can harm the discs in your back because it decreases the ability of the discs to absorb the nutrients they need to stay healthy and may cause them to become dry and brittle.
Practicing good posture and body mechanics to reduce stress on your back.