A Weak Link in Many Spines
The spinal discs are cartilage pads which sit between the vertebra and provide most of the flexibility to the spine. Without the discs, the spine would be a rigid column of bone not capable of bending. It is the combined flexibility of the 23 spinal discs that account for the total amount of movement in the spine.
The mobility that the spinal discs add to the spinal column is, however, not without some drawbacks. By being soft and therefore flexible, the spinal discs are prone to “wear” with time and aging. This “wearing” process usually begins in the third decade of life, and disc disorders causing back and leg pain are common in all adults over the age of 30 years. In a study of adults who did not have or had not had back pain, researchers from the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at George Washington University found abnormal discs on CAT scans in 35% of all age groups. In those under 40 years of age, disc abnormalities were found in approximately 20%, and in those over 40 years, they were found in 50%!
As the discs wear with age, they become prone to bulging or “slipping” out of place causing back pain and often pain radiating down one or both legs. A slipped or herniated disc is perhaps the most common reason for which people have back surgery. Fortunately, other treatment alternatives such as chiropractic manipulation are available for the treatment of disc disorders. Two recent studies comparing manipulation to other nonsurgical treatments such as physical therapy found manipulation to be superior in treating back pain related to the disc. Many patients receiving this type of treatment will be able to avoid difficult back surgery.
Anyone with back or leg pain should have a chiropractic evaluation for a disc disorder. Many will find that chiropractic treatment will be the answer to this difficult and common problem.