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Degenerative Disc Disease
If the disc itself is the source of the pain, the patient will experience either axial or referred pain. This condition can occur as part of the aging process in which the discs in the spine start to dry out, thereby losing some of their flexibility and shock absorption. As part of this process, the inner portion of the disc shrinks, providing less cushioning between the boney vertebrae in the spine, and the outer part of the disc can suffer small tears, all of which can cause pain.
The exact cause of pain generated by the disc is still controversial, but there can be both a biochemical reaction and a biomechanical component.
Bulging Disc (protrusion)
A bulging disc is a condition in which the nucleus (inner portion) of a spinal disc remains contained within the annulus fibrosus (outer portion), unlike a herniated disc in which the nucleus leaks out of the disc. This protrusion or bulge can put pressure on the surrounding nerve roots which can lead to pain that radiates down the back and/or other areas of the body depending on the location of the bulging disc.
Herniated Disc (prolapsed/extruded)
A herniated disk refers to a problem with one of the rubbery cushions (disks) between the individual bones (vertebrae) that stack up to make your spine.
A spinal disk is a little like a jelly donut, with a softer center encased within a tougher exterior. Sometimes called a slipped disk or a ruptured disk, a herniated disk occurs when some of the softer "jelly" pushes out through a crack in the tougher exterior.
A herniated disk can irritate nearby nerves and result in pain, numbness or weakness in an arm or leg. On the other hand, many people experience no symptoms from a herniated disk. Most people who have a herniated disk don't need surgery to correct the problem.
The most common way to develop a herniated disc is to do nothing but grow older. As we age, the soft, spongy discs that cushion our spine gradually begin to deteriorate as water and protein content diminish. Eventually the discs weaken and become brittle, allowing annular tears to develop in the fibrous outer walls of the disc. It is through these tears that the nucleus material escapes the disc. Pain occurs when this extruded disc material comes into contact with a spinal nerve or the spinal cord itself. Disc extrusion can also occur when a disc becomes weakened or damaged as a result of an injury or another environmental factor.
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