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Definition of Disc

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Disc: Shortened terminology for an intervertebral disc, a disk-shaped piece of specialized tissue that separates the bones of the spinal column.

The center of a disc, called the nucleus, is soft, springy and receives the shock of standing, walking, running, etc. The outer ring of the disc, called the annulus (Latin for ring), provides structure and strength to the disc. The annulus consists of a complex series of interwoven layers of fibrous tissue that hold the nucleus in place.

A disc can herniate. A herniated disc is often referred to as a slipped disc. This term came from the action of the nuclear tissue when it is forced from the center of the disc. The nuclear tissue located in the center of the disc can be placed under so much pressure that it can cause the annulus to rupture.

When the disc has herniated or ruptured, it may create pressure against one or more of the spinal nerves which can cause pain, weakness or numbness.

The terms slipped disc, herniated disc, prolapsed disc, and ruptured disc are synonymous.

QUESTION

Nearly everyone has low back pain at some time during their life. See Answer
Reviewed on 12/11/2018

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