Disc problems are probably linked to low back pain more than anything else, especially in middle aged and older adults.
The discs act as “shock absorbers” to some degree and aid in both the ability of the spinal vertebra to move while at the same time providing stability to the vertebral joints.
Discs are made up of two main components. The annulus is a structure resembling an onion or a tree trunk with many concentric circles emanating from the center to the outermost margin of the disc.
The nucleus pulposis is a “jelly” like structure that forms the core of the disc and due to its high water content actually imparts some hydraulic function to the spine as it simultaneously supports and provides flexibility for the body.
A disc herniation occurs when the nucleus or “jelly” center pushes out through tears or cracks in the annulus and finally escapes the annulus altogether.
Depending on where this occurs will determine the type and severity of resulting condition.
If the nucleus pushes out into the canal where the spinal cord is, it could put pressure on the spinal cord itself and cause a wide range of neurological conditions.
If the nucleus pushes out toward the side of the vertebra, it could impinge or put pressure on the spinal nerves where they exit the spine sometimes resulting in conditions such as sciatica.
These conditions are a bit easier to diagnose since each nerve has specific indicators that help a doctor narrow down the cause of pain and weakness.
Disc problems are typically seen in middle to older age individuals due to the long term effects of gravity and repeated trauma or micro trauma (poor posture over years and years for example).
The daily effects of poor posture, the compression of gravity, and human nature of overdoing certain physical activities such as exercise or work can gradually weaken the outer structure of the disc until the center (the nucleus) pushes through and escapes.
Countering the effects of gravity (as inversion therapy tables do), using common sense when exercising and working, as well as keeping good postural habits will help maintain disc health well into later years avoiding the painful and debilitating condition of a disc herniation.