The intervertebral discs that sit between your vertebrae are critical components of your spine. They act as stabilizers, shock absorbers and spacers between the vertebrae to allow smooth movement and ample room for the spinal nerves to exit the spinal cord and travel to your muscles, skin, organs, etc.
Here’s The Problem With Them:
- They lack a blood supply. They are dependent on adequate movement by the vertebrae above and below to help nutrient and waste product transport in and out of the disc.
- They have a very limited nerve supply. When internal breakdown of the discs occur, there is often no symptoms or just some morning stiffness in the spine that gets written off as “tight muscles”
- They can bulge and herniate, causing neck-arm pain and back/leg pain.
- They can degenerate. Internal breakdown consists of micro fissures and dehydration which is evident even in the MRI scans of some teenagers and increases with each decade of life. It’s a part of getting older, like grey hair.
- When discs do get overloaded with stress, it’s usually from static compression and repeated bending and twisting of the spine, many of our daily activities.
- A disc that degenerates and becomes internally disrupted may produce symptoms as nerves and blood vessels have been shown to grow into damaged discs, resulting in pain responses and muscle tightness.
- Not all degenerated discs become painful. We are still trying to understand why.
Here’s How You Can Keep Your Discs Healthy:
- Discs do not like sustained static loading or compression. Think sitting, bending over and sedentary activities. Cycling, housework and gardening may fall into this category. Change your posture after 30 minutes of sitting.
- They do like dynamic loading or compression. Some studies suggest 30 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activities. Think walking, deadlifts and other exercises in the gym * (see cautionary note below ), and just being active!
- Discs can be recharged during the day, like your cellphone battery. See how in a previous post here.
- Discs don’t like repeated bending and twisting, especially under load. Learn how to bend and lift properly.
- Disc do not like space flight. Cancel your trip to colonize Mars. Over 30% of astronauts have disc herniations within a few weeks of being back in a gravitational environment on earth. You can read more about this here and here.
- Cautionary note from #2
For every patient I see whose back is helped by workouts in the gym, I see four patients whose problem is because of their workouts in the gym. You need expert advice to train and bulletproof your back and neck properly.
I have worked with the staff at it’s time! Fitness Results over the past 5 years and they are the go-to gym for scientific, up to date workouts that are safe and very effective for my patients with back and neck problems. They get results.
Now, let’s get moving!