Discs act as shock absorbers, providing stability, flexibility and movement in the spine. They allow us to stand, walk, lift, sit, twist, etc. A disc is a soft pad or cushion, positioned in between each vertebrae of the spine. The jelly-like center – the nucleus, is enclosed with a tough, rubbery exterior – the annulus. There are twenty-three vertebral discs in the spinal column. However, due to numerous factors – such as injury, weight, occupation, genetics, disease or aging, a disc can start to breakdown, lose its strength and flexibility, and rupture – resulting in a disc herniation. This may result in pain, numbness and/or weakness in the neck, lower back, shoulder, arm, or leg.
Most herniated discs occur in the lower back, although they can also occur in the neck. There are three major types of spinal herniations:
- Disc Protrusion: Also known as a contained herniation or bulging disc, occurs when a disc expands or bulges past its normal space between the vertebrae and places pressure on a nerve or the spinal cord. Ligaments around the disc protrusion remain intact. Symptoms may be mild to moderate pain, or go unnoticed. If you equate a disc protrusion with a jelly donut, then you would have a flattened, wider donut with all the jelly still inside – none has oozed out.
- Disc Extrusion: Also known as a non-contained herniation, occurs when the nucleus (jelly-like substance) ruptures through the annulus (exterior of the disc). This equates to squishing or pressing down on the donut, and the jelly oozes or leaks out from the crust of the donut. The ligaments around the disc extrusion may remain intact or may have become damaged. Unfortunately, painful symptoms – such as back pain, are often experienced.
- Disc Sequestration: A piece of the nucleus breaks through the annulus, completely separating from the main nucleus. So, if you were to pound on the donut, causing the jelly to shoot out and end up on another donut… you would have a disc sequestration.
If you are experiencing pain, especially in the neck, back or leg, please seek care. Your doctor or spine specialist may recommend imaging tests, such as an MRI to help diagnose your condition and customize an effective treatment program or determine if surgical planning is necessitated. An MRI is used to detect spinal abnormalities. It can provide an accurate picture as to where the herniation is, as well as which nerves are affected.
Using computer technology, magnets and radio waves, Dynamic Medical Imaging’s Upright MRI, the only Upright MRI in the area, can accurately and comfortably provide the diagnostic testing to help your doctor discover the root cause of your symptoms. Diagnostic benefits of an Upright MRI include the ability to see more pathology than with recumbent, lying down scanners.
Dynamic Medical Imaging, leading experts in personal injury imaging, offers 3D MRI Rendering – the creation of a 3 dimensional digital model from standardized MRI study. This is accomplished by using the latest technology to ‘stack’ the highly detailed, thin, slice cross-sectional images from the MRI to generate the 3D model. Higher resolution, crisp images, additional angles, and details provide vital information for treatment.