The intervertebral discs (IV discs) are fibrocartilages (strong tissues) lying between two vertebrae (Between each vertebral body is a cushion called an intervertebral disc). The intervertebral disc does not have any blood supply, but the disc absorbs nutrients by means of osmosis. There is no disc between Atlas (C1), Axis (C2), and Coccyx. The disc together make up one third of the total spinal column length from the second cervical vertebra to the coccyx.The IV discs allow the spine to be flexible, also provide a shock absorbing effect and prevent friction being created by vertebral surfaces from rubbing against each other.

The intervertebral disc consists of a fibrocartilage outer ring called annulus fibrosus, surrounding a gelatinous core known as the nucleus pulposus. The nucleus pulposus is covered above and below by cartilage endplates that anchor the discs to adjacent vertebrae. As the spine receives pressure, the gel moves redistributing itself to absorb the impact of the pressure. The gel loses moisture as a person ages and the outer layer of annulus fibrosus on the intervertebral disk deteriorates with age and can begin to rip, and this causes chronic back pain for some people. Incorrect postures put additional pressures on the spine which can lead to a tear in the annulus fibrosus pushing out the nucleus pulposus which may impinge on a nerve leading to back pain, tingling numbness etc.

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Frequently asked questions about Intervertebral Disc

What is an intervertebral Disc?

The intervertebral disc is a fibrocartilage in between two vertebrae. These are the spongy cushions that separate the bones of the spine (vertebrae). 

What are the symptoms of disc problems?

The symptoms include:

  • back pain
  • increased back pain when repetitively bending or with prolonged sitting
  • increased back pain with coughing, sneezing, laughing, or straining
  • pain, numbness, or pins-and-needles radiating into an arm or leg if a disc is impinging on a nearby nerve.
What are the risk factors for disc problems?

Risk factors include:

  • obesity
  • lack of fitness
  • cigarette smoking
  • older age
  • poor posture
  • Lifting heavy loads.
  • constant bending and lifting activities
What are the types of Disc problems?

Common disc-related problems include:

  • Disc strains and sprains
  • Degenerative disc disease 
  • Protruded discs (also called herniated/prolapsed/extruded/slipped discs). 
Which doctor should be consulted for spinal disc problems?

A spine specialist focuses mainly on treating spine conditions, but an Orthopaedic also can be consulted.

Which are the best spine surgery hospitals in India?
  1. MedantaTheMedicity, Gurugram.
  2. Wockhardt Hospital, Mumbai.
  3. Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, 
  4. Sakra Hospital
  5. Gleneagles Global Hospital, Bengaluru
  6. BLK Super Speciality Hospital, New Delhi.
  7. Indian Spinal Injuries Center, New Delhi.
  8. Fortis Hospital, Bengaluru
What is a herniated disc?

A herniated disc occurs when the intervertebral disc's outer fibers (the annulus) are damaged and the soft inner material of the nucleus pulposus ruptures out of its normal space. If the annulus tears near the spinal canal, the nucleus pulposus material can push into the spinal canal.

What causes slipped discs?

Long standing stressful improper postures put pressures on the disc leading to tear in the annulus fibrosus(outer covering of the NP) which pushed the nucleus pulposus out. This NP presses onto the nerve giving rise to symptoms. Aging leads to the disc becoming less flexible which also leads to a tear in the annulus fibrosus.

Can slipped disc be prevented?
  • A slipped disc cannot be prevented but certain steps to protect the spine include:
  • Avoid lifting heavy weight bending from the back
  • Bend the knee keeping the weight close to the body and then lift weight.
  • exercise the core muscles and leg muscles.
  • avoid sitting too long
  • do not assume improper postures
  • Do exercises to strengthen the muscles in your back, legs, and abdomen.
What is a discectomy?

Discectomy is the removal of the herniated disc, that was pressing on a nerve giving rise to pain and other related symptoms.

How long do you stay in the hospital after herniated disc surgery?

The patient can go home the same day or the next day post operation. 

Recent Articles

Intervertebral disc problems can lead to symptoms of back pain, neck pain and sciatica. Disorder affecting the spinal disc (IVD) include disc herniation, degenerative disc and infection like discitis.
Disc desiccation is common in aging. The nucleus pulposus shrinks and is replaced with fibrotic tissue, leading to increased stress on the annulus fibrosus. It increases in size to be able to bear the additional weight. The resulting flattened disc reduces mobility and may impinge on spinal nerves leading to pain and weakness.

Disc Herniation: occurs when the nucleus pulposus pushed out of the annulus fibrosus due to a gap in it. This nucleus pulposus can impinge on a nerve.

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