Proper nutrition to the spinal intervertebral disc is necessary to minimize and slow the degenerative process of the disc. Oxygen and glucose are necessary for the life of the cells within the disc, but other nutrients are needed to maintain the integrity of the disc material. Studies have shown that if there is a loss of proper nutrients or there is a breakdown of the disc nutrition, this is associated with progressive disc degeneration. Loss of nutrition has an adverse effect on the cells of the disc. This article concentrates on nutrition to the spinal disc and its effect upon spine health. Other causes of disc degeneration are discussed elsewhere on the website.
What Are Spinal Discs And What Do They Do?
Spinal discs are located between the vertebra in the spine. There are no discs between the base of the skull and the first (cervical) neck vertebra or the first and second neck vertebra. The spinal disc is important for the following reasons:
- Cushion – The disc works as a shock absorber between the vertebra.
- Body Height – Spinal discs make up nearly 25% of the height of the spine. When the disc degenerates, you shrink!
- Support – Discs allow the weight of the body to be carried down the spinal column and work as the “shock absorbers” of the spine. This function significantly reduces the weight strain on the small joints of the back.
- Motion – Helps with limited motion of the spine and attaches the vertebra one to the other.
How Does The Disc Get Nutrition?
The blood supply to the disc is sparse. Small vessels supply the outer aspect of the disc, but do not penetrate deeply into the disc. Therefore, only the margins or shell of the disc may have a vascular supply. Very small vessels leading into the bone/disc attachment area can contribute some nutrients, but there is not a significant amount that reaches the disc by direct blood vessel routes and this can decrease with age and atherosclerosis. Nutrition primarily gets to the disc by diffusion from the fluids around the discs. With good spinal flexibility, nutrition for the disc is easier to maintain, but loss of motion caused by injury or wear and tear of small traumas to the spine can accelerate the degenerative process in the disc.
What Happens If The Disc Nutrition Is Reduced?
If disc nutrition is compromised, the cells start accelerating the degenerative process in the disc. Water or fluid is reduced in the disc which also contributes to disc degeneration. Glycosaminoglycan, an important part of the cartilage of the disc, helps with up to 9 times of water absorption based on glycosaminolycan’s own volume. Once the disc degenerates, arthritis and possible joint instability may occur.
What Are The Important Nutrients For The Disc?
We now know that maintaining good spinal motion and mechanics are essential for good disc nutrition. The following nutrients are helpful in maintaining disc health. These include:
- itamin C – Collagen production aids in connective tissue repair.
- Chondroitin Sulfate – Helpful with osteoarthritis and cartilage repair.
- Glucosamine Sulfate – Studies have shown that it helps osteoarthritis of the joints.
- Vitamin D – Protects bone health.
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids – Helps the body reduce any inflammation around the disc.
- Magnesium – Helps to regulate many minerals and assists in energy production.
- Zinc – Involved in nearly 100 enzyme reactions and aids in tissue healing.
- Bromelain – Has anti-inflammatory properties and is found in pineapple.
- Boron – Helps to balance calcium and magnesium metabolism as well as contributes to cartilage growth.
Your doctor may have a dietary supplement product that supplies many of these nutrients.
How Can I Help My Discs Get Nutrition?
It is essential that good spinal joint motion and spinal flexibility be maintained. This allows the best chance for your spinal discs to continue receiving adequate nutrition. In addition to chiropractic care, the use of exercise, maintaining good posture and using the correct supplements can be helpful in disc nutrition. Disc degeneration is a natural phenomenon of aging. However, providing the disc with proper nutrition may minimize pain and suffering from the process.
The doctors at Coon Rapids Chiropractic Office have experience in the care and treatment of intervertebral disc injuries. Multiple treatment techniques are available.