Maybe you wake up with occasional morning stiffness in your back – or you wake up like that on most days! Did you know that the foundation for your stiffness may have been laid in your spine’s posture the day before?
Discs have a very specific structure that makes them good at their job – acting as a cushion between the bones above and below (see picture).
In the middle of a disc lies a jelly-like substance that’s surrounded by many elastic, rubber-like layers -- think of this like a jelly donut. Those layers are thinner and weaker towards the back part of the disc, closest to the spinal nerves (again, see picture).
When you move, it changes things within the discs -- back bending creates pressure against the elastic fibers towards the front of the disc while bending forward strains the elastic fibers towards the back of the disc -- imagine leaning over the back of a chair vs. doing a sit-up or toe touch.
If you’ve ever wondered what happens when you “slip a disc,” it’s when these elastic fibers get so weakened that the jelly breaks through the back of the donut towards the nerve.
…. and unlike Homer Simpson, it won’t leave you saying, “Mmmm … donut ...”
In the vast majority of people, this is a gradual, rather than immediate process that involves a progressive weakening of the back of that jelly donut over time.
Your discs don’t have a blood supply so they’re reliant upon water to bring nutrients in to repair damage and take garbage out -- therefore, discs swell with water overnight while you’re sleeping and are fullest in the morning. So, if you have some damage that’s happened or taking place within a disc, you’ll feel this when the discs are fullest, when you wake up in the morning -- it’s like pressing on a scab vs. pressing on normal, intact skin.
So now you may be thinking, “what could I possibly be doing to damage my discs?!?”
Truth is that you’ll have to wait for the answer until the next post!