Spinal discs

Spinal discs are located between each of the 33 vertebrae, which are the interlocking bones of the spine that are stacked on top of one another. These discs act as shock absorbers for the spine and allow it to flex, bend, and twist.

The outer portion of a spinal disc, called the capsule (annulus fibrosus), is made of tough, elastic cartilage. The capsule surrounds a mass of jellylike material called the nucleus (nucleus pulposus).

Aging, injury, and illness can cause the spinal discs to crack or rupture. The jellylike nucleus can leak out, putting pressure on the spinal nerves. Back pain, numbness, and weakness may result, which sometimes requires surgery.

Spinal discs are also called intervertebral discs.

Last Updated: July 21, 2008

Author: Shannon Erstad, MBA/MPH

Medical Review: William M. Green, MD - Emergency Medicine & Robert B. Keller, MD - Orthopedics

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