Spinal Decompression

Anatomy of an Intervertebral Disc

Our spine has a series of cushions that sit between the vertebra known as intravertebral (between the vertebra) discs. The disc is made up of two parts, the annulus fibrosis which forms the outer part of the disc and the nucleus pulposus which is the center of the disc. The annulus fibrosis is made of many fibers forming concentric rings. It is very thick and generally very durable. They are designed to be extremely difficult to tear. The nucleus pulposus is a jelly like material, which affords the disc its cushioning capability.

Occasionally and often due to extreme trauma, the annulus fibrosis rings tear. When this happens, the nucleus pulposus leaks out of the center of the disc and compromises the spinal cord. When this happens it is known as a disc herniation. A disc herniation often compromises the spinal nerve root, causing peripheral nerve damage or interference.

Another aspect of the problem is that spinal discs do not have a direct blood supply. They get all their nutrient from adjoining tissues via a process known as osmosis. It is for this reason that discs don’t heal quickly or in some cases not at all. Due to the painful ramifications of the nucleus pulposus pushing up against the spinal cord or the nerve roots, historically surgery has been required to decompress the spine at the various level(s) of the disc herniation.

With this new technology, often, surgery is no longer necessary.