Almost everyone has heard about the discs which reside between the bones of your spine. Many times it’s in relation to an injury; such as a disc herniation, slipped disc, disc protrusion etc. While defining each type of disc injury is a topic for another day, today we will review the basics.
The discs reside between nearly every bone in your spine. They allow motion, with the center of the disc acting as a sort of ball bearing from which all other spinal motion occurs. Vertebral (spine) discs have two parts. The easiest way to imagine the disc is to compare it to a jelly donut. The outside is the layers of pastry, with the inside being a sort of jelly type filling. Many disc injuries occur when this “filling” pushes outside of the “pastry shell”.
Keeping discs healthy can be a tough job if you don’t know how. The inside of the discs have very poor blood supply, which means healing and nutrient transport is difficult. Additionally, the discs actually “shrink” during the day due to compression from the weight of our body. This pushes water out of the disc, thereby dehydrating it. While we sleep (horizontal to gravity) the disc is able to be free of the compression/weight and then reabsorbs water for the next day’s activities.
Now that we know a little bit about how the disc works let get into a few simple ways you can keep your discs as healthy as possible. First and foremost is proper hydration. If your body is systemically dehydrated then it will be very difficult for the discs to proper rehydrated at night. Another key area for discs is PROPER motion and ergonomics. Discs generally respond well to compression/distraction and linear forces. However, twisting, the act of rotation and bending can be extremely damaging to discs and lead to micro trauma.
As always if you have specific questions related to disc health, please consult your doctor.