disc injury


Disc injuries may involve one or more intervertebral discs located between two vertebral bodies in the spine.  These discs provide healthy motion to the back and are important for the longevity of your spine.  The gel like inner content of the disc is called the nucleus which is wrapped and contained by strong fibers of the annulus which surround the nucleus.  Other common words for disc injuries include slipped disc, blown disc, prolapsed disc, ruptured disc, all of which may refer to one of the disc injuries listed below. Injury to the disc is measured by how much the annulus has torn and how much of the nucleus has squeezed out of the disc.  The injury is graded as follows:

  • Disc Bulge for minor injury
  • Disc Herniation for moderate injury
  • Disc Protrusion for major injury
  • Disc Extrusion for extreme injury



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The injury itself can be painful because the disc is sensitive to annular tears around the nucleus.  In fact just minor internal tears that put strain on the annulus can cause local back pain.  However, more serious issues develop when the nucleus squeezes out and pushes on the nerves or spinal cord around the disc.  This results in one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Radiating pain
  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Tightness
  • Feelings of hot or cold

The nerves from the spine go to the arms and legs so when the disc pushes on the nerves it can cause problems in the arms and legs as well.  This is commonly called sciatica, neuropathy, neuritis or radiculopathy.


Because disc material is soft tissue and not hard bone the best method for a conclusive diagnosis is to perform an MRI.  An MRI does not use radiation like an x-ray but instead uses a magnetic field to generate an image of the soft tissue of the body.  X-ray is best for evaluating the spine for diagnosis of scoliosis, arthritis, spondylolisthesis and other bony, structural problems.  However, orthopedic and neurological tests performed in a chiropractic office can provide a pretty good diagnosis of a disc injury as a place to start in the diagnosis process.


The disc can heal from these injuries with time and pressure on the nerves and spinal cord can go away but the healing is slow and may never be perfect.  Often once the disc has been injured it is vulnerable to re-injury.  The recovery process should involve stretching, strengthening and mobilization of the surrounding joints and muscles by your chiropractor.  Speak with your Santa Rosa Chiropractor about an evaluation of your condition and recommendations for treatment.

Contact the office of Dr. Douglass Toth to schedule an appointment or to learn more information on disc herniation treatment.