Everyone likes to eat a donut! Especially with juicy jelly in the middle! The interesting part of this jelly donut is that it is very similar to the disc in your spine called intervertebral disc. This disc is made of fiber and water and has a jelly center. Sounds like a jelly donut to me. We have 24-26 of these cartilage discs to support the whole spine as a cushion, create mobility in the spine, and distribute the physical pressure from your body weight.
Once we damage the disc, the disc deflates and disappear and that is called Degeneration/Arthritis. The only way to find out if you have this problem, or if you already do know and want to know what stage of degeneration/arthritis, the best way is to do neurological examinations and radiological examinations. We can not feel or see these problems in our body so the best way is to get an objective physical examination to see what condition your discs are.
When there is an unstable spinal joint, the spinal bones will fall out of its original place and the disc will herniate. Then to make this unstable joint more stable, the body decides to cause a muscle spasm to form a temporary cast. The muscles are there to make sure that the spinal bones will not go any further out of place because the bones can cause damage to the nerves and spinal cord. Once you have damage to the spinal cord you will be paralyzed or have detrimental effects to the body that will cause death. So to prevent that the muscles cause a spasm. One of our neurological examination is to find out where the spinal muscles are in spastic state. To find the acute problems.
Sometimes the problems are chronic, the unstable joint needs more stability so the body eventually starts putting calcium on the disc structure to cement the unstable joint and spinal bones. What happens is that the joint and bones because completely fused and immobile. Then the muscle doesn’t have to move so you lose muscle contraction.
What also happens when you have an unstable joint and spinal bones, the disc will herniate and puts pressure on the nerve structure and cause inflammation. Nerve structures are very sensitive to pressure, by the weight of a dime the nerve structure will cause inflammation. Once there is inflammation, there is more blood flowing to the damaged joints. Just like a twisted ankle, it gets flared up and inflamed with heat. Same thing happens in your spine, so we can measure the heat on the spine and determine if there is damaged nerve structure.
Again, if the spinal joint has a chronic problem, then the disc is completely gone then the nerve structure is completely compressed. Eventually the nerve structure degenerates and the blood flow is constricted and causes less heat. Which will show in the neurological examination that you have a nerve structure that is degenerated to the point of heat being diminished. There should always be a blood flow that cause some amount of heat that measurable and maintained.
Here are the visual aides to what the spinal degeneration looks like on a model.
The best way to objectively see and measure disc degeneration is to get full spine radiological x-ray examination. Then you can compare yourself with the level of degeneration on this website: