What is an intervertebral disc?

The intervertebral discs are located between the vertebrae of the back and act as a cushion for the vertebrae above and below.
At the center of the disc is the nucleus pulposus (composed of a jelly-like material that consists of mainly water), which is contained in the ring-shaped annulus fibrosus, constituted of fibers.
The intervertebral discs have a very high water content so as to prevent any strain on the upper and lower vertebrae, which are supported by this flexible cushion-like area. They make possible the bending and twisting motions in the backbone. When these discs protrude and touch a nerve, symptoms like back pain and sciatica may occur.

Reasons for treating an intervertebral disc

Back pain conditions such as herniated discs, spinal stenosis and spondylolisthesis appear because of disc degeneration. In time, the discs are damaged by strenuous sports and the aging process, and their function gradually deteriorates, causing pain and numbness.
We strongly believe that the disc treatments offered at our clinic can help alleviate the causes and symptoms of back pain. The PLDD, PODD, Hybrid Laser Therapy, PIDD, and DST methods are all designed to treat the intervertebral discs. The DST method is a treatment at root level that can repair and regenerate the discs.

  • Illustration 1

    The spine is made up of bone and cushions (intervertebral discs), as in Illustration 1.

  • Illustration 2

    The intervertebral disc has a dual-layered structure, with nucleus pulposus in the center, surrounded by a fibrous ring, as in Illustration 2.

If there is no problem with the cushions (intervertebral discs), shock is absorbed by those cushions even when intense exercise is done, so there is mostly no impact on the surrounding bones and ligaments. Chronic low back pain and neuropathy do not appear in children because their cushion function is normal. However, the following damage begins to occur to intervertebral disc cushions from as early as around the age of 16.

  • Illustration 3

    “Intervertebral disc damage” refers to cracks in the fibrous ring, as shown in Illustration 3.

When cracks appear in the fibrous ring and nucleus pulposus in the center leaks out rapidly, it causes a herniated disc, as in Illustration 4. Conversely, if it leaks out slowly, the herniated disc will not be conspicuous, but the amount of nucleus pulposus will ultimately decrease and cause a decline in the function of the intervertebral disc, as in Illustration 5.

In the end, the burden on the spine will increase in accordance with the reduced cushion function, and spine and ligament deformity will bring about spinal arthritis or osteodesmosis (the transformation of tendon into bony tissue), as in Illustration 6. This will finally be complicated by spinal stenosis or vertebral canal stenosis.

Because problems begin with the intervertebral disc damage mentioned above and ultimately continue to progress to spinal disease, treatment of the intervertebral discs—the root cause—is essential.

Q&A about the treatment

  • question

    What is the best way to treat a disc?


    Surgical procedures include posterior lumbar discectomy and spinal fusion, which involves the removal of a disc.
    However, none of these procedures can heal the disc at the root level and there is also a risk of recurrence.

  • question

    How long do I need to stay hospitalized for treatment at the ILC International Lumbago Clinic?


    No hospitalization is required. You can go home on the same day after the treatment.

  • question

    Is there a possibility that I lose a disc?


    Yes, sometimes it may happen for some patients.
    Over time, the function of the intervertebral discs deteriorates, and they may become stiff due to the loss of cushioning and elasticity, and sometimes the upper and lower vertebrae can wear out and may end up rubbing against each other.

  • question

    Are there any treatment options other than surgery?


    Yes, conservative treatment may be given before considering surgery.
    Medication and therapeutic exercise may be used to relieve the pain.
    However, the discs cannot be cured thoroughly with these methods only, and surgery may be necessary to cure the underlying medical condition at root level.

  • question

    What are some everyday precautions to take if I have back pain?


    Try to avoid carrying heavy loads and postures that put a strain on your lower back for long periods of time.

5 Types of Outpatient Treatment for Low Back Pain

  • The DST Method (Discseel™)

    An intervertebral disc treatment that began in the United States in the 2010s. Can be suitable for a wide range of conditions, including problems in patients after surgery. It is the only (※2)treatment that can repair and regenerate intervertebral discs.
    ※2 According to research by Operation Japan (Ltd.)

    Click here for details.
  • The PIDD Method (Implant)

    An implant intervertebral disc treatment that has been conducted since the 2000s. As with PLDD, results without injury to intervertebral discs can be anticipated. This treatment is suitable for herniated discs only.

    Click here for details.
  • Hybrid Laser Treatment

    A treatment that combines the benefits of PLDD and PODD. This treatment is suitable for herniated discs only.

    Click here for details.
  • The PODD Method (Ozone)

    An ozone intervertebral disc treatment that has been conducted mainly in Europe since the 1990s. It can be suitable for a wide range of conditions.

    Click here for details.
  • The PLDD Method (Laser)

    An outpatient, laser intervertebral disc treatment that has been well known worldwide since the 1980s. This treatment is suitable for herniated discs only.

    Click here for details.