We all know spinal discs are important -- but to understand why, the real question is… what are they made of?
Simply put, your spinal discs are the little cushions that sit between the bones (vertebrae) in your spine.
Each disc is made up of a tough, fibrous outer layer (annulus fibrosis) and a jelly-like inner layer (nucleus pulposus). The tough outer layer contains and protects the softer inside layer.
These small discs have a big job.
They enable your spine to move in all directions.
Why it Matters:
Your spinal column has 24 movable bones with spinal discs between each pair. Each disc acts like a small swivel to allow your body to tilt and rotate.
A disc’s inner layer is mostly made up of water, and that high water content helps keep it supple and movable. However, as you get older, your discs tend to lose their high water content, which can lead to degeneration.
Degenerative discs don't move as well, are more prone to cause pain, and even contribute to the compression of your spinal nerves.
Movement is one of the best ways to keep your spinal discs healthy.
Since the spinal discs don't have a particularly good blood supply, movement is how they bring in nutrients. Those nutrients help the discs stay healthy and push out waste that can contribute to pain and inflammation.
Your spinals discs moving and working together with your spine better help you to avoid injury. So that leaves us with considering mobility work to address the joints and the soft tissues. You need to think about focusing not only on the way that the joints move but also on the soft tissues and how sensitive and how tight they are.
You should also consider exercise which is the gold standard in management of spine related pain and disability. Remember not all exercises are created equal and I'm more interested in whether or not your spine is functional then how good your six pack looks.
The idea is having the skills in place to stabilize your spine by enhancing stiffness of the core muscles. Greater core stiffness enhances performance but also protects the spine from injury. This allows you to easily transfer force and movement of the muscles from one side of the body while preventing buckling or damaged the spine and disc. The key is to be able to promote proximal stiffness in the core to allow for distal mobility in the arms and legs. I'll go over bracing concepts in another post or video because it's a whole other thing, but for right now you need to think about the ability to brace your spine is a basic fundamental for good spine health. It allows you to do more while preventing injury and in an acute pain setting it can help re-educate you on the proper way to move. In a maintenance setting it's an ideal way to fire up the nervous system and make you more resilient, make you harder to break, in the gym and in real life.
I believe complete clarity on your movement habits and the underlying root cause your problem gives you the tools you need to get back to what's most important to you in your life. If this is a lot to chew and you just have questions about how to all fits in your life, by all means let me know. I love solving complex movement-based problems. I love helping people be stronger than what they are.
Stay Strong, Inspire Others!
Intervertebral Disc: Anatomy-Physiology – Pathophysiology -Treatment. Pain Practice. 2000.