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David Wright and disc herniation: What does it mean?

Let's look at the injury David Wright is currently dealing with.

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The string of injuries continue for David Wright as the Mets' third baseman was sidelined for 6-8 weeks with a herniated disc in his neck. This article will cover the nature of this injury and what lies in store for Wright as his rehabilitation begins.

What is the injury?

A herniated disc (aka slipped disc) occurs when the intervertebral disc that lies in between the vertebrae (bones of the spinal column) touches the spinal cord and/or nerve root causing pain and discomfort. The disc comprises two parts: the nucleus pulposus (inside portion) and annulus fibrosus (outside portion). With a herniated disc, the inside portion is pushed into the outer portion thus irritating the nerves around it; essentially the jelly inside a donut is pushed to the outside making a mess as you eat it. Sticking with the analogy, once the jelly oozes out, it is very hard to put the jelly back into the donut (similar to how the slipped part of the disc can't really go back into the disc).

Symptoms typically include numbness and tingling, arm/leg pain, and muscle weakness; depending on the level the disc herniation, different nerves are affected impairing certain muscles and parts of the arm/leg. Disc herniations can occur as a result of a traumatic event or from general "wear and tear" that associated with aging. Although most commonly occurred in the lumbar spine (low back), it is not uncommon to see a herniated disc in the cervical spine (neck).

What is the recovery process?

The Mets have decided to rest Wright for 6-8 weeks, meaning they are taking the conservative approach. Depending on the severity, surgery may be required if the inside portion has bulged too far out. The likely surgery is a microdiscectomy, where the surgeon would snip the part of the disc that has protruded. An MRI would reveal the severity of the injury and given the Mets are following this approach, one can assume that the herniation is not too bad.

Physical therapy will work on reducing the nerve irritation and the symptoms described above. Exercises are given to improve posture as poor posture can contribute to the "wear and tear" of a healthy herniated disc; the muscles that are targeted are in between your shoulder blades and deep in the back of your neck. In addition, exercises are given to improve any weakened muscles that were affected from the nerve irritation. All of this is of course to supplement any manual techniques from the physical therapist to decompress the nerve, loosen any tight muscles, and/or reduce pain.

All in all, Wright will be sidelined for 6-8 weeks before resuming baseball-related activities which can tack on up to another month when you factor in his conditioning level and rehab stint in the minors. It is very possible that Wright will not return to the lineup until the mid-to-late August.