One of the most frequently asked questions that we ever receive at Transitions Chiropractic Newcastle is, “Doc, how do I know my back pain isn’t a disc injury?”

Unfortunately the answer is often unwanted, and yes, it is a disc injury….

Many of you know that our spine is made up of 24 vertebrae and the discs that lie in between them. It is these wonderful spongy water filled discs that compress and absorb shock. They help our bodies adapt to everything from gravity, to sitting, or even running a marathon. The consistency of the discs and what they do means that they can swell and move really easily.

Think of it like a water balloon lying in between two of your favourite books. The books are of similar size and have little grooves in them to help them line up symmetrically over each other and here, in this example they represent the vertebrae. Similar to our vertebrae these books can move- they can rotate, tilt or even become dislodged from their original position. As these books move the water balloon will be forced to move. Virtually any twist or movement of the books will cause a response from that balloon- good or bad it will happen. So as those books are our vertebrae what we can see is that any twist, pull or misalignment of our spine has an associated disc aggravation.

The disc will never swell, bulge move or even slip just on its own accord. Sure it will compress and shock absorb and sometimes the disc may protest too much continued abuse. However, in order for the balloon or the disc to actually become a problem the books or vertebrae must have moved off centre.

The good news here is that we can help this so called “disc injury” by working on the books or vertebrae that surrounding it:

1- Strengthen your Back– the stronger your extensor muscles, the more support to help hold the vertebrae up. This then limits their ability to fall out of sync. Any exercise that combines rotation and being in an upright position will help you here (swimming, walking or dancing for example).

2- Get Adjusted- similar to checking the wheel balance on your car, fine tuning the wheel alignment even before there is an obvious problem will minimise any extra stress or strain on the disc. Likewise, even if in alot of “disc pain” getting the associated vertebrae adjusted will help the disc pressure settle and help decrease any swelling or irritation that may be present.

3- Move Differently- Those books or vertebrae have little grooves that help them stay in position- regularly moving these joints and grooves will keep those joints lubricated and give them a chance of staying free and mobile. This mobility is a great way to prevent the vertebrae becoming dislodged thanks to repeated bouts of abuse.

4- Traction- As we already said these discs won’t “slip” by themselves, but thanks to gravity and our adaptation to our office environment they are constantly under pressure. Hanging upside down, by our hands, or lying on your back with legs inverted up the wall will help add traction and life back to our discs again.

So, the cause of your back pain could be a disc injury; the good thing is we can absolutely help!

Helping you live a life without limits…


James Staciwa
M. Chiropract, B. Chiro Sci.