CF 183: Factors Leading To Surgery For Some Discs & Disc Innervation

Today we’re going to talk about the innervation of the disc and we’re going to talk about some factors that can lead to surgery for lumbar disc herniations.  But first, here’s that sweet sweet bumper music



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OK, we are back and you have found the Chiropractic Forward Podcast where we are making evidence-based chiropractic fun, profitable, and accessible while we make you and your patients better all the way around.  We’re the fun kind of research. Not the stuffy, high-brow kind of research. We’re research talk over a couple of beers. I’m Dr. Jeff Williams and I’m your host for the Chiropractic Forward podcast.   If you haven’t yet I have a few things you should do. 

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You have found yourself smack dab in the middle of Episode #183 Now if you missed last week’s episode , we talked about Adjustments as immune boosters and we talked about pain. Is it mind or is it matter? Make sure you don’t miss that info. Keep up with the class. 

On the personal end of things…..

It’s been a bit of a whirlwind these last few weeks.  I’ve talked a little more recently about launching my very first book. It’s out. It’s available on Amazon. It’s called The Remarkable Truth About Chiropractic: A Unique Journey Into The Research. And I’d love for you to go pick up a copy for yourself. You can get either ebook or a paperback sent to your front door. Your call.  Here’s why I think you need it. All of the research we talk about here and lots before I started the podcast, has been categorized for you into conditions and body regions. So, if you need some research on neck pain, flip to the section and there you go. Migraines? SI joint issues? Go to those sections and there you go.  This comes in handy when you have a talk to give and don’t have the time to go searching through pubmed all day.

Or when a patient asks you a question on something specific. Or a host of any other reasons. It’s a reference for your practice for your education, patient education, and community education.  So go grab that up while you’re thinking about it. 

As mentioned in a previous episode, we visited New Orleans, Then we were home for one weekend. Then the next weekend we were off to Dallas for the Texas Chiropractic Association’s ChiroTexpo event which is our state’s convention basically.  Two board of directors meetings for me plus some networking, classes, and problem-solving. Essentially. 

I have seen him speak before. I went to Forward 19 in St Louis before the Rona came along and saw Brett Winchester talk. We had him in Dallas at this event and he did not disappoint. I was able to better connect with Brett here in Texas. We will absolutely have him on a future podcast and in the meantime, if you want to learn more about Dr. Winchester, check out his podcast at Gestaldt Podcast.  The dude is sharper than a tack, has worked with the St. Louis Cardinals, and is one of those on the top and on the edge so check him out if you’re smart. 

Then, even though Dr. Kevin Christie was already a friend, we really got to hang out and shoot the proverbial shoo shoo in Dallas, along with Dr. Winchester. And it was just a good time had by all. 

I used to be lone wolf, folks. I used to not care about the profession. I just cared about my office, my numbers, my business. Me, me, me. I got a bit shamed into joining the TCA. Then, they had a vacancy on the Board of Directors due to the director in my district having cancer. Well, how can you say no? I was thrown into the fire with no context, no history, no experience, and little idea of what to say or how to act. But I was thrown in with a group of about 20 people that lead the profession and develop leaders from scratch. That’s what they did for me. We got there. We made it happen. 

Fast forward about a decade or so and I was on the Board of Directors for about 5 years, been the Chiropractic Development Initiative Chair, served as the Public Relations Chair, and am now going into the second year as the Department Coordinator for Scientific Affairs. I help steer the speakers we have at our events among other things. 

Associations need your membership dollars and you need to be members. But that’s just a mostly passive notion. The REAL benefit is realized when one becomes active and plugged into the association. Meaning, through being active and involved at just about every step, I have developed a network of close friends and colleagues from around the entire state of Texas that, even though some practice differently than I, would still go to bat for me, support me, and back me. And I them. 

We have developed brothers and sisters, camaraderie, and family with each other. I cannot begin to share with you how many times I’ve had questions or issues that I was able to just call up one of my TCA buddies and get a solid answer for it.  This medical integration I’m going through right now. Do you think I just up and decided to do it and jumped into the fire? Hell no.

I called all of my TCA buddies who have done it previously.  One is now my consultant on it. The attorney that wrote the law that allows for this integration is TCA’s lobby team. He’s the one that has created the paperwork and contracts for me.  Literally, none of what I am today is possible to the degree it’s been possible if not for being active, plugged in, and a solid member of the TCA leadership. 

I don’t say this to brag that I’m active or brag about my positions in the TCA or to boast in any way. I say this to let you know that there is a difference between being a member and being an active member. Between building something larger than yourself and your own practice and doing your own small thing. Between being an influential leader and being a bench warmer.  Get into the game. Raise your hand. You can thank me later.

Our profession needs evidence-based, patient-centered leaders like you. Don’t bitch about our profession if you’re not willing to step in and do something to change it. 

Item #1

This one is called “Factors Associated With Progression to Surgical Intervention for Lumbar Disc Herniation in the Military Health System” by Anderson et. al. [1] and published in Spine Journal on March 15, 2021 which means it’s got the hot spread all over it. 

Why They Did It

To determine surgery-free survival of patients receiving conservative management of lumbar disc herniation (LDH) in the military healthcare system (MHS) and risk factors for surgical intervention

How They Did It

  • The Military Data Repository was queried for all patients diagnosed with lumbar disc herniation from 2011-2018
  • Follow-up time to surgical intervention was defined as the time from diagnosis to first encounter for lumbar microdiscectomy or lumbar decompression in either a military treatment facility or in the civilian sector. 
  • The Military Data Repository was also queried for history of tobacco use at any time during military healthcare system care, age at the time of diagnosis, sex, military healthcare system beneficiary category, and diagnosing facility characteristics. 
  • Multivariable Cox proportional hazards models were used to evaluate the associations of patient and diagnosing facility characteristics with time to surgical intervention.
  • A total of 84,985 military healthcare system beneficiaries including 62,771 active duty service members were diagnosed with lumbar disc herniation in a military treatment facility during the 8-year study period. 
  • A total of 10,532 (12.4%) military healthcare system beneficiaries failed conservative management onto surgical intervention with lumbar microdiscectomy or lumbar decompression. 

What They Found

Among all healthcare beneficiaries, several patient-level (younger age, male sex, and history of tobacco use) and facility-level characteristics (hospital vs. clinic and surgical care vs. primary care clinic) were independently associated with a higher risk of surgical intervention.

Wrap It Up

Lumbar disc herniation compromises military readiness and negatively impacts healthcare costs. military healthcare system beneficiaries with lumbar disc herniation have a good prognosis with approximately 88% of patients successfully completing conservative management. However, strategies to improve outcomes of conservative management in lumbar disc herniation should address risks associated with both patient and facility characteristics.


Item #2 Our last one today is called “Innervation of the Human Intervertebral Disc: A Scoping Review” by Groh et. al. [2] and published in Pain Medicine in June of 2021 and that’s current hot. As in present-day, burning up the face of the Earth as we speak, hot. 

Why They Did It

Changes to the intervertebral disc (IVD) have been associated with back pain, leading many to postulate that the IVD may be a direct source of pain, typically referred to as discogenic back pain. Yet despite decades of research into the neuroanatomy of the IVD, there is a lack of consensus in the literature as to the distribution and function of neural elements within the tissue. The current scoping review provides a comprehensive systematic overview of studies that document the topography, morphology, and immunoreactivity of neural elements within the IVD in humans.

How They Did It

Articles were retrieved from six separate databases in a three-step systematic search and were independently evaluated by two reviewers.

What They Found

Three categories of neural elements were described within the IVD: perivascular nerves, sensory nerves independent of blood vessels, and mechanoreceptors. Nerves were consistently localized within the outer layers of the annulus fibrosus. Neural ingrowth into the inner annulus fibrosus and nucleus pulposus was found to occur only in degenerative and disease states.

Wrap It Up

While the pattern of innervation within the IVD is clear, the specific topographic arrangement and function of neural elements in the context of back pain remain unclear. I mostly included this because, in our Neuromusculoskeletal Diplomate program, they were clear about the innervation encroaching into a disc injury and how that makes re-injury somewhat easier and sometimes more painful. Because the nerves are further into the structure of the disc once the injury has occurred and then subsequently resolved.  Very interesting stuff.  That’s all I have the time for today folks. Y’all be safe. Keep changing our profession from your little corner of the world. Keep taking care of yourselves and everyone around you. Tough times are upon us but, the sun will shine again. Trust it, believe it, count on it. Let’s get to the message. Same as it is every week.  Store Remember the evidence-informed brochures and posters at   


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The Message

I want you to know with absolute certainty that when Chiropractic is at its best, you can’t beat the risk vs reward ratio because spinal pain is primarily a movement-related pain and typically responds better to movement-related treatment rather than chemical treatments like pills and shots. When compared to the traditional medical model, research and clinical experience show us patients can get good to excellent results for headaches, neck pain, back pain, and joint pain to name just a few. It’s safe and cost-effective can decrease surgeries & disability and we do it through conservative, non-surgical means with minimal hassle to the patient. And, if the patient treats preventatively after initial recovery, we can usually keep it that way while raising the overall level of health!

Key Point: At the end of the day, patients should have the guarantee of having the best treatment that offers the least harm. When it comes to non-complicated musculoskeletal complaints…. That’s Chiropractic!

Contact Send us an email at dr dot williams at and let us know what you think of our show and tell us your suggestions for future episodes.  Feedback and constructive criticism is a blessing and so are subscribes and excellent reviews on podcast platforms.  We know how this works by now. If you value something, you have to share it, interact with it, review it, talk about it from time to time, and actively hit a few buttons to support it here and there when asked. It really does make a big difference. 

Connect We can’t wait to connect with you again next week. From the Chiropractic Forward Podcast flight deck, this is Dr. Jeff Williams saying upward, onward, and forward.


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About the Author & Host Dr. Jeff Williams – Fellow of the International Academy of Neuromusculoskeletal Medicine – Chiropractor in Amarillo, TX, Chiropractic Advocate, Author, Entrepreneur, Educator, Businessman, Marketer, and Healthcare Blogger & Vlogger


1. Anderson AB, B.M., Pisano AJ, Watson NI, Dickens JF, Helgeson MD, Brooks DI, Wagner SC,, Factors Associated With Progression to Surgical Intervention for Lumbar Disc Herniation in the Military Health System. Spine (Phila Pa 1976), 2021. 46(6): p. E392-E397.

2. Adam M R Groh, M., Dale E Fournier, MSc, Michele C Battié, PhD, Cheryle A Séguin, PhD,, Innervation of the Human Intervertebral Disc: A Scoping Review. Pain Med, 2021. 22(6): p. 1281-1304.

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