Nope. Because of the attachment of the discs to the spinal bones via something called Sharpey’s fibers a “slipped disc” is an anatomical impossibility.
Well, what can happen to a disc? you might ask. It would help if we review a little anatomy first. The disc is a specialized type of cartilage that sits between most of the spinal vertebrae. It acts as a shock absorb-er and allows you to move. It has two main parts, the nucleus in the middle which is made of a jelly-like material and acts as the primary shock absorb-er. This is surrounded by about 13 concentric rings of a very tough, dense fibrocartilage. These rings look a little like the rings of an onion that has been cut in half.
The health of the disc is maintained by the flow of blood which brings nutrients into the disc and carries away waste products. Blood is not pumped into the disc by your heart, there are no blood vessels that connect your heart to your disc. The only way a disc can get nutrition is the pumping action created when you move.
You see, blood is pumped by the heart to most of the body, but it is made in the bone marrow (like the spinal vertebrae, for instance) which, quite conveniently, attach to the discs. It’s like living upstairs from a restaurant. (God is an amazing designer, isn’t he?). When you move, it creates a pumping action that moves blood and nutrients into the disc, and pumps waste products out of the disc. Think of wringing a dirty sponge out when you’re washing your car and you get the idea.
Here’s the problem. Sometimes, because of injuries, accidents or just bad habits we can lose the normal motion and the discs slowly dry up and over time they wear out. The first sign of degenerative disc disease is a drying up of the disc and the rings of the disc cartilage can separate. The outer rings can bulge out and this is what many call a ‘slipped disc’ but is more accurately described as a bulging disc.
The next step down the road of disc degeneration occurs when the nucleus leaks out sometimes putting pressure on delicate nerves. This is referred to as a herniated disc and depending on its’ severity may require surgical treatment.
The last step along the road occurs when a piece of the disc breaks off and we call this a sequestered disc. Unfortunately, this can be a surgical emergency.
Your chiropractor is an expert in keeping your discs healthy (even before trouble starts to show up) by locating areas of restricted movement and restoring normal motion and function.
You don’t have to be in pain to have disc degeneration. It’s a good idea to get a check up with a trained professional the same way you get routine dental checkups every 6 months. Tony Robbins likes to say, “kill your monsters when they’re small”. We say, ‘take care of your discs before they become small’!