The Anatomy of the Degenerative Disc
By: Dr. Nicholas LaHood, D.C.
Modern science and the development of MRI scanning for evaluating the spine has been life changing for patients and doctors. The MRI scanning is the new standard way we look at and observe a patients degenerative discs, and herniated disc conditions. It has been long thought that disc degeneration occurs first and this leads to a loss of normal disc function. The disc becomes degenerative or weakened and then movement malfunctions occur creating multiple injuries like disc tears. The disc itself becomes unable to function and support the joint, creating inflammation, nerve root injury and eventually stenosis.
One major research program looked at cadaver intervertebral discs, half with degenerative disc disease and half without degenerative disc disease. Every cadaver with a degenerative disc was observed under a microscope to show annular tears in the damaged disc. Each cadaver studied without degenerative discs had no annular tears. This, together, with the fact that annular tears were found even in mildly degenerative discs, prior to development of disc bulges or disc space narrowing – suggests that the annular tears are the primary mechanism of disc degeneration. Rather than a secondary result of disc dehydration.This means that the disc tears first microscopically in the outer rings then it begins to degenerate.
The most common symptoms of a degenerative disc are midline or central lower back pain wi