Very often when a doctor or other health professional looks at an MRI or X-ray of a spine, they see a bulging, herniated or damaged disc and equate that with the cause of the pain. While we are in no way disregarding the idea that disc damage can cause pain and disfunction, the fact is that many people live perfectly healthy and pain free lives with damaged discs.
More importantly, we are saying that the damaged disc is less of a cause than it is a symptom, and if the underlying cause is not addressed, symptomatic relief is temporary at best, and possibly harmful. Discs generally become damaged as a result of improper muscular functioning and movement patterns.
The most common disc degenerations that we see in our clinics are 1) damage to the discs of the lower neck (C6, C7) and 2) damage to the discs of the lower back (such as L4, L5, S1 etc).
When we examine the two major muscular reflexes that become habituated as a result of stress, the reasoning behind all of this is perfectly clear.
Without going into tremendous detail, the posture of the startle reflex, what Thomas Hanna named the Red-Light reflex, is equated with a full body muscular reaction to protect the organs. This reflex pattern, consisting of abdominal tension, internally rotated shoulders, and other muscular responses, can become a posture or muscular habit that a person engages in all day and even when they are sleeping.
One of the most prominent functions associated with clients who habituate this pattern is also chronically contracted muscles in the neck and upper back that cause a clamping down of the vertebrae of the neck, especially the C6 and C7 area of the base of the neck. It is this chronic clamping of musculature that causes pressure and improper functioning of the spine that leads to disc degeneration.
By freeing the body from the habituated and chronic posture of the red light reflex and its associated neck tension, a client can relieve the tension from the vertabrae, thus allowing the disc to heal or for the associated pressure on the nerve to be alleviated.
Similarly, the high incidence of lower back disc problems is easily understood when we examine one of the most common functional disorders that our clients present with. The primary function of habituation of the Landau Reflex, what Thomas Hanna termed the "Green Light" reflex, is a lordosis, or sway-back posture. In this posture, the muscles along the spine, especially in the lumbar area, become chronically contracted. Without any way to voluntarily relax these muscles, the client's spine becomes subject to great pressure and loss of normal and healthy rotational movement. This will lead to disc damage and nerve impingement.
Again, the solution is to restore the client's ability to lengthen, relax, and properly use the muscles of the low back and torso.
These are but two simplified illustrations of how breakdown of neuro-muscular function leads to the structural degradation of disc degeneration. Of course there can be other factors such as diet, hydration, and other organic causes, but even in those cases the restoration of proper musculoskeletal functioning can be helpful.