A herniated disc refers to a problem with one of the rubbery cushions (discs) between the individual bones (vertebrae) which make up your spine.
A spinal disc is like a jelly donut with a softer center encased within a tougher exterior. Sometimes called a slipped disc or a ruptured disc, a herniated disc occurs when some of the softer “jelly” pushes out through a crack in the tougher exterior.
A herniated disc can irritate nearby nerves and result in severe pain, numbness, or weakness in the arms or legs. On the other hand, many people experience no symptoms from a herniated disc. Most people who have a herniated disc do not need surgery to correct the problem.
You may think a bulging disc is the same as a herniated disc, but there is a difference. With a herniated disc, a crack occurs in the outer layer of the disc, called the annulus. The crack usually affects a small part of the disc, and it allows the soft inner material of the nucleus pulposus to rupture out of the disc.
A bulging disc is different because the disc simply bulges outside the space it normally occupies between your vertebrae but does not rupture. A bulging disc affects a much larger part of the disc than a herniated disc. While it is more common to have a bulging disc than a herniated disc, a herniated disc is more likely to be painful. It’s possible for you to have a bulging disc without feeling any pain at all.
Degenerative disc disease is one of the most common causes of low back and neck pain and also one of the most misunderstood.
Degenerative disc disease describes the symptom of pain and possibly radiating weakness or numbness stemming from a degenerated disc in the spine. While the definition sounds simple, many patients diagnosed with degenerative disc disease are left wondering exactly what this diagnosis means for them.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting millions of people worldwide. It occurs when the protective cartilage on the ends of your bones wears down over time. Although osteoarthritis can damage any joint in your body, the disorder most commonly affects joints in your hands, knees, hips, and spine.
Osteoarthritis often worsens gradually, and no known cure exists. However, staying active, maintaining a healthy weight, and other treatments may slow progression of the disease and help improve pain and joint function.
A pinched nerve occurs when too much pressure is applied to a nerve by surrounding tissues such as bones, cartilage, muscles, or tendons. This pressure disrupts the nerve’s function, causing pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness.
A pinched nerve can occur at several sites in your body. A herniated disc in your lower spine, for example, may put pressure on a nerve root, causing pain that radiates down the back of your leg. Likewise, a pinched nerve in your wrist can lead to pain and numbness in your hand and fingers (carpal tunnel syndrome).
With rest and other conservative treatments, most people recover from a pinched nerve within a few days or weeks. Sometimes, surgery is needed to relieve pain from a pinched nerve.
Scoliosis is not a disease but rather a term used to describe any abnormal, sideways curvature of the spine. Viewed from the back, a typical spine is straight. When scoliosis occurs, the spine can curve in one of three ways:
Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of spaces in the spine (backbone), which causes pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. About 75% of cases of spinal stenosis occur in the lower back (lumbar spine). In most cases, the narrowing of the spine associated with stenosis compresses the nerve root, which can cause pain along the back of the leg.
Spinal stenosis may result in low back pain as well as pain in the legs. Stenosis may pinch the nerves that control muscle strength and sensation in the legs. Additional symptoms may include:
Sciatica refers to pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve, which branches from your lower back through your hips and buttocks and down each leg. Typically, sciatica affects only one side of your body. Sciatica most commonly occurs when a herniated disc or a bone spur on the spine compresses part of the nerve. This causes inflammation, pain, and often some numbness in the affected leg.
Although the pain associated with sciatica can be severe, most cases are resolved with conservative treatments over the course of a few weeks. People who continue to have severe sciatica after six weeks of treatment might be helped by surgery to relieve the pressure on the nerve.
In the first part of the 20th century, sacroiliac (SI) joint dysfunction was the most common diagnosis for lumbago (low back pain). Any pain in the low back, buttock, or leg was usually referred to as SI joint dysfunction. Before 1932, SI joint syndrome was a particularly popular diagnosis. There was actually a period referred to as the “Era of the SI Joint.”
In the late 1980s, many physicians “rediscovered” the SI joints as a possible source of back pain. Yet even today, SI joint pain is often overlooked as many physicians have not been trained to consider it. Many are still reluctant to believe a joint that has so little movement can cause back pain.
SI joints in your pelvis connect the sacrum (tailbone) and the ilium (large pelvic bone). The SI joints connect your spine to the pelvis, and thus, to the entire lower half of the skeleton.
A spinal fracture due to osteoporosis (weak bones) is commonly referred to as a compression fracture but can also be called a vertebral fracture, osteoporotic fracture, or wedge fracture.
The term “wedge fracture” is used because the fracture usually occurs in the front of the vertebra, collapsing the bone in the front of the spine and leaving the back of the same bone unchanged. This process results in a wedge-shaped vertebra. A wedge compression fracture is generally a mechanically stable fracture pattern.