I am given the fortunate opportunity to discuss vertebrae frequently, as small talk. Spine issues are so common that when people find out I’m a massage therapist, they start telling me about their vertebrae, and of course their discs.
vertebra[ vur-tuh-bruh ]
noun, plural ver·te·brae [vur-tuh-bree, -brey], ver·te·bras.Anatomy, Zoology.
any of the bones or segments composing the spinal column, consisting typically of a cylindrical body and an arch with various processes, and forming a foramen, or opening, through which the spinal cord passes.
I was chatting with a new friend last week and she was explaining her understanding: the discs between two vertebrae are bulging and pinching a nerve which causes her pain and numbness. In her case, in her neck and radiating down her arms.
I found myself, again, trying to explain simply how light-touch bodywork can affect soft tissue and alleviate that pain and numbness. The nerves don’t touch the bone. The nerves are wrapped in layers of connective tissue, called fascia. The fascia is made of elastin and collagen mostly and has a silly putty type of stretchiness to it. When you stretch gently and hold, the tissue will change to maintain the stretch. The lack we can add to the fascia around the nerves can relieve the restriction enough to diminish the pain and numbness.
This fascia, connective tissue, wraps around layers of fluid which wraps around layers of nerves. It also wraps around individual muscles, individual layers of muscles, and individual filaments of muscles. The fascia wraps around organs and all of this fascia indirectly connects to each other. This explains why a restriction released in one area of the body can affect a symptom that seems unrelated.
In summary, the nerves don’t touch the bones. The nerves are surrounded, and protected, by the craniosacral system, which consists of the fascia, membranes, and fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Even if the disc is herniated, or bulging, and pressing on the nerve, that soft tissue and fluid can be rearranged without pressure.