The structure and function of the intervertebral discs

The functional structure of the intervertebral disc allows the body to move freely and to turn in various directions.

The human body is a complex and intelligent mechanism which can be responsible for a diverse array of activities and functional movements. One of the major existing mechanisms in the process of life support is the spine and its components. Thanks to the spine the human structure is a single entity. All vertebrae are connected together with joints and ligaments.

Unique structure

The intervertebral disc is a cartilaginous plate surface. It belongs to poluustav, which is located between the vertebral bodies. Its top and bottom edges of he in contact with them.

The structure of the intervertebral disc includes:

The structure of the intervertebral disc

  • fibrous ring;
  • jelly-like core;
  • hyaline cartilage.

Each division is characterized by unique features in the structure.

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Fibrous ring

Thanks to the functional structure of the fibrous ring vertebrae can not shift relative to the axis and each other. Multiple fibers are connected and have a triple cross direction. This creates strength and durability.

Gelatinous kernel

In the center of the ring is a jelly-like core. One of the fundamental components are mucopolysaccharides. They are responsible for the resilience of existing connections and the ability of absorption and water return.

The more increases the load on the spinal column, the chemical components of the kernel, starting with greater intensity to absorb the water. There is enlargement of the size of the nucleus. Based on this – increase the shock absorbing properties of the spine.

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During the reverse process (reduction of load), there is the return of water and elasticity of the core is significantly reduced.

The total amount of water ranges from 65 to 90% of the total.

The content is influenced by the following components:

  • the age of the person;
  • pressure on a specific area;
  • physical activity.

There is a pattern: the older the human body, the faster decreases the water content in the nucleus and there is a decrease in elasticity of the fibers in cartilage tissue.

Hyaline cartilage

Hyaline cartilage separates the disk from the surrounding spines, and is of great importance in the delivery of nutrients to it.

The pressure on the individual disks is directly related to the location of the body in the surrounding world. With vertical location from 2 to 5 atmospheres. During physical exertion, bending right/left – the pressure may increase to 10 atmospheres. This figure is adjusted by the amount of water inside the disc. Excessive load leads to damage to the components.

The power of this poluustav occurs through vessels that are located in adjacent vertebrae.

Vessels through the intervertebral disc of an adult pass.

Dimensions and working principle

On the spine of the human body is 24 disk drives. Do not exist in the following departments:

  • the articulation of the occipital bone and the first vertebra;
  • the articulation of the first and second cervical vertebrae;
  • coccygeal and sacral sections of the spinal cord.

The thickness of the connection plates of the disk varies. They are thicker and more densely connected in the back. This allows the vertebral column to produce flexor and extensor movements in various directions.

The dimensions of the disk have different numbers on the entire length of the vertebral column (depends on the part of the spine and applied load). Minimum: 4 mm – thoracic spine (due to a very small range of motion). The maximum size in the lumbar and cervical divisions: 12 and 6 mm, respectively. This is due to the large axial pressure and the greatest mobility.

The total size of the intervertebral discs in children is half the height of the spine. This is due to the amazing ability of little kids to take a different (even unnatural), the position of the body. In adulthood, this size is reduced to 1/3.

Function and deformation

The intervertebral disc is a unique structure and its main function is shock absorption. It is based on its structure.

Still, the main functions include:

  • create tight joints between the vertebrae, which are located next to it.
  • the mobility of the spine;
  • bearing;
  • cushioning and concussion falling on the spine, the brain, the spinal cord.

If there is an initial deformation of a disk located in any part of the spine biomechanics begins to be violated.

The main reason for the degeneration is a glitch in the delivery process of nutrients.

During the day there is compression of the disc along the axis of motion. And the result is that the functional reduction of the shape – deformation and flattening. The water begins to subside. So in the evening any man shrink in size and starts to look lower than in the morning (up to 3 cm).

During flexion and extension of the vertebral column is the change in vertical size from 30 to 60%. The distance between the processes of nearby vertebrae, can grow up to four times.

If the load is short – it is the return of the disc to physiological dimensions. If the process pressure on the intervertebral disc long – the water continues to go, and the process further compression. Can begin the dissection of the fibrous ring.

After thirty years in the human body start to develop degenerative processes. The consequence of this is the loss of the nucleus of the disc glycosaminoglycans (or monopolisation), which are directly responsible for fetching water. Aging occurs in all structures.

Communications biochemistry and function

Significant water outlet from the disk affects not only the physical strain and pressure exerted on it. The younger the human body, the greater the concentration of proteoglycans in the tissue of the ring. Their structure causes slow leaks even under heavy loads. As a consequence, the compression speed of the disc decreases.

With decreasing disc height is a redistribution of the load. Articular processes of the vertebrae get more pressure. And as a result of their degeneration and the development of such diseases as arthritis of the intervertebral joints.

In the nucleus of the disc with age can also be irreversible consequences. Probably a weakening and displacement under the action of prolonged and excessive stress. It threatens the outside of the vertebra. As a result, the development of herniated discs.

Hernia Shmorlja

When the penetration of the cartilaginous tissue of the intervertebral disc into the body of the vertebra occurs herniation or schmorl’s node. The disease has no specific symptoms, and in most of the statistical survey is typical for the elderly.

The occurrence of schmorl’s nodule at a young age due to the strong impact in the vertical direction, excessive physical exertion or congenital disease.

With the development of the disease there is a redistribution of load factor. He falls to the articular apparatus, which is located between the vertebrae that are likely to affect the early development of osteoarthritis.

If the resulting node is too big – it is fraught with cracks or fractures (weakened body).

Greater risk are children, in which there is a rapid increase in growth. Bones and skeleton fails to grow and be updated, following the growth of soft tissues. There is abnormal formation of voids between the vertebrae. And in the end – there is protrusion of a hernia.


In order for the function of the intervertebral disc and its constituent components are preserved for a long time in perfect functioning mode, it is necessary not to disturb the proper metabolism. It is important the availability of all the micronutrients to maintain intervertebral discs in working condition.

An important feature of CDs is their some ability to regenerate. Therefore, with proper nutrition, healthy lifestyle possible reversible reaction to reduce degenerative processes.

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