The spinal column consists of a series of bones (vertebrae) that are stacked one upon another. The spine consists of 33 vertebrae - 24 of which are called “articulating” vertebrae which are separated by intervertebral discs, and 9 fused vertebrae in the sacrum and coccyx.
The spine is divided into four (4) sections:
- Cervical = Neck
- Thoracic = Upper Back/Chest
- Lumbar = Lower Back
- Sacral = Pelvic Region
Each of the vertebrae in the cervical, thoracic and lumbar region are separated and cushioned by an intervertebral disk. This disc acts like a cushion and helps keep the vertebrae from rubbing together.
A spinal disk bulge or herniation can be caused by trauma and also degenerative changes. The force of the collision can cause a tear in the outer part of the disk, the annulus fibrosus, which allows the nucleus to bulge out of the ring. This tear allows that protruding disk to sometimes press against surrounding nerves causing debilitating pain and discomfort.
Disk problems can be treated sometimes with medications, including muscle relaxers and pain killers. If that doesn't work, patients sometimes try epidural injections. Injections also can be a short term solution. Surgery can be a last resort if there is no improvement or significant neurological deficit.
Some of the more common surgical options include: Discectomy, Fusions, Laminectomy, Hemilaminectomy