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The spine consists of 33 bones called vertebrae.. Through the centre of the vertebral bones, runs the spinal cord. The spinal cord is the extension of the brain and transmits signals from the brain to the rest of the body.
The vertebral bones are stacked on top of each other with intervertebral discs in between the vertebrae. Intervertebral discs are a cushioning substance held in place by the ligaments connecting the spinal bones and the surrounding muscles.
Each intervertebral disc is a fibro-cartilaginous joint. The discs have an outer fibrous ring, the commonly called the annulus fibrosus. The annulus envelops an inner gel-like centre called the nucleus pulposus. This dual nature of the discs helps them to withstand compressive forces as well evenly distribute pressure across the disc.
A healthy intervertebral disc, prevent stress concentration and nerve compression during movement. These intervertebral discs are what render flexibility, movement and shock absorption to the spinal column.
Due to attrition and old age, degenerative changes begun to accumulate in the intervertebral discs. Studies suggest that almost 25% of people show evidence of disc degeneration by the age of 40, as many as 60% of people over 40 show disc degeneration in some form or the other.
There is an increase in frequency in disc degeneration with age. In general, degenerative changes of the disc affect hydration and elasticity of the cartilage, with the most prominent changes occurring in the nucleus pulposus.
These changes make the disc brittle, causing the formation of stress points and resulting in structural degradation. These changes can manifest as –
When disc health is below par, one of the early signs that emerge is pain. It should be taken as warning sign and appropriate action must be taken. The risks of developing disc changes detrimental to health and wellbeing increases with old age, lack of exercise and obesity.
In most cases, the possible reasons for a person developing spine pain or injury is heavy lifting, twisting and bending. This harms the intervertebral discs and also result in poor blood flow to the disc cells, resulting in degeneration of the disc.