Spinal discs are the shock absorbers of your spine. Nestled between each pair of bony vertebrae, they absorb the impact of moving and allow your spine to bend and twist. Unfortunately, though, they’re not indestructible, and as you age, they can sustain damage from constant wear-and-tear.
Though most people’s discs show age-related changes, not everyone experiences pain, for those who do, finding a treatment that offers relief is important.
At Santa Cruz Osteopathic, physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist Dr. Richard Bernstein offers state-of-the-art treatment options for a variety of disc problems. These include spinal decompression therapy and the revolutionary SpineMED® platform.
Common disc problems and their symptoms
Spinal discs consist of a soft inner core (nucleus) and a tough outer shell (annulus) that give them a flexible but tough, pillowy shape. Problems occur when the discs:
When you're born, your spinal discs are mostly composed of water, but as you age, they dehydrate, taking on a flatter appearance. Flatter discs don’t absorb shocks as well, and they provide less cushioning between the vertebrae. Both of these can lead to pain in the area of the disc. This condition is known as degenerative disc disease (DDD), a common problem starting in middle age.
The accumulation of a lifetime of stress and minor injuries can lead to tiny tears in the discs’ annulus, which also contains nerves. Any tears that occur near the nerves can become painful. And if the tear cracks the annulus open, the nucleus can ooze out, causing the disc to herniate into the spinal canal and push on sensitive nerve roots.
The exact symptoms you experience with either condition depend on where the weak disc is located in the spine and any other changes it’s caused.
The pain from DDD or disc herniation:
- Can run from your lower back to your buttocks to your upper thighs
- Comes and goes
- May be aching or like an electric shock
- Can last a few days or a few months
- Feels worse when you sit and better if you move
- Feels worse when you bend, lift, or twist
- Gets better when you lie down
In some cases, DDD can lead to numbness and tingling in the extremities, and it can also cause your leg muscles to become weak. If this happens, it means the damaged discs may be affecting the nerves near your spine.
Understanding spinal decompression therapy
Spinal decompression is a nonsurgical, noninvasive procedure that addresses pain caused by compressed nerves or nerve roots. When intervertebral discs become damaged, they often don’t heal on their own because they endure constant pressure from the weight of the spinal column and the head above them. Decompression therapy reduces the pressure inside the discs. That permits fluids, nutrients, and oxygen back into the disc space to heal the tissue.
The SpineMED platform can be used for decompression in both the lumbar (lower back) and the cervical (neck) spines.
Spinal decompression is completely painless. Each session lasts about 30 minutes, at which point Dr. Bernstein adds complementary treatments to help relieve your pain. He recommends 20 sessions for decompression therapy, once a day during the week, with a weekend rest period for maximum relief.
Am I a good candidate for spinal decompression therapy?
SpineMED is both safe and effective. It doesn’t produce any side effects or complications and can be used on anyone 16 and older. However, patients with conditions that compromise the spinal column’s structure (e.g., osteoporosis, tumors, fractures) aren’t good candidates for the treatment.
Want to learn more about how decompression therapy can relieve your disc pain? Call Santa Cruz Osteopathic at 831-464-1605 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Bernstein, or book online with us today.