After an injury accident, one of the most common forms of injury are those related to the back. Back injuries most commonly relate to damage caused to the discs between the vertebrae. These discs exist to spread loading evenly on the spinal column.
Each disk is a flat, circular capsule about an inch in diameter and one-quarter inch thick. They have a tough, fibrous, outer membrane and an elastic core.
Under stress, a disk’s inner material may swell, pushing through its tough outer membrane. The entire disk can become distorted or bulge in spots. With an injury, all or part of the core material may protrude through the outer casing at a weak spot, pressing against surrounding nerves.
There are two distinct categories of disc problems.
The first is referred to as spinal stenosis or a “pinched nerve”. When a patient has a symptomatic herniated disc, the disc itself is not painful, but rather the material that is leaking out of the inside of the disc is pinching or irritating a nearby nerve. This type of pathology produces pain called radicular pain (e.g., nerve root pain) leading to pain that may radiate to other parts of the body, such as from the low back down the leg or from the neck down the arm. Leg pain from a pinched nerve is usually described as sciatica.
Disc pain. When a patient has a symptomatic degenerated disc (one that causes low back pain and/or leg pain), it is the disc space itself that is painful and the source of pain. This type of pain is typically called axial pain.