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Spinal Discs - What are they and what do they do?

Updated: Sep 20, 2021

Did you know our back has 23 spinal discs located in it? But what are these discs and what do they do? How many people have you heard say they've 'slipped a disc' in their back? What does this even mean?

What are our spinal discs?

Spinal discs are known as intervertebral disc and are important in maintaining normal functioning of our spine. They are a cushion of fibrocartilage and create the joint between 2 vertebrae in our spine. There are 23 discs in a human spine, 6 in the cervical spine (neck), 12 in the thoracic spine (middle back) and 5 in the lumbar spine (low back).

What is their function?

Our spinal discs have several functions and are extremely important.

  • Restrict Intervertebral joint motion.

  • Improve stability in the spine.

  • Resistance to axial, rotational, bending load.

  • Maintenance of anatomic relationship.

  • Cushioning for the vertebrae and reduce the stress caused by impact.

  • Shock absorber for the spine.

  • They help protect the nerves that run down the spine and between the vertebrae.


Our spinal discs are composed of 3 components. There is the inner area is known as the nucleus pulposus (NP), the outer portion is the annulus fibrosus (AF) and there is the cartilaginous endplates that anchor the discs to adjacent vertebrae.

The Annulus Fibrosus is the tough out portion of the disc, its circular exterior is composed of concentric sheets of collagen fibers (lamellae) that surround the inner core. The Nucleus Pulposus is the inner core and contains a loose network of fibers suspended in a gel like fluid.

Our spinal discs are extremely important for our normal functioning. Over the next few blogs we will investigate conditions associated with our spinal discs and answer the pending question of can we really 'slip a disc.'

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