What is arthritis?

The most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis, can affect any joint in the body, but most often afflicts the knees, hips, and fingers. Most people will develop osteoarthritis from the normal wear and tear on the joints through the years. Joints contain cartilage, a rubbery material that cushions the ends of bones and facilitates movement.

Over time, or if the joint has been injured, the cartilage wears away and the bones of the joint start rubbing together. As bones rub together, bone spurs may form and the joint becomes stiff after long periods of activity or inactivity.

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What is a bulging/ruptured/herniated disc?

The spinal vertebrae are separated by flexible discs of shock absorbing cartilage. These discs are made of a supple outer layer with a soft jelly-like core (nucleus). If a disc is compressed, so that part of it intrudes into the spinal canal but the outer layer has not been ruptured, it may be referred to as a “bulging” disc. This condition may or may not be painful and is extremely common.

Herniated discs are often referred to as “slipped” or “ruptured” discs. When a disc herniates, the tissue located in the center (nucleus) of the disc is forced outward. Although the disc does not actually “slip,” strong pressure on the disc may force a fragment of the nucleus to rupture the outer layer of the disc.

If the disc fragment does not interfere with the spinal nerves, the injury is usually not painful. If the disc fragment moves into the spinal canal and presses against one or more of the spinal nerves, it can cause nerve impingement and pain.

If the injured disc is in the low back, it may produce pain, numbness, or weakness in the lower back, leg, or foot. If the injured disc is in the neck, it may produce pain, numbness, or weakness in the shoulder, arm, or hand.

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What is radiculopathy/nerve impingement?

Radiculopathy refers to a condition in which the spinal nerve roots are irritated or compressed. Many people refer to it as having a “pinched nerve.”

Lumbar nerve impingement indicates that the nerve roots in the lower spine are involved, while cervical radiculopathy is associated with nerve roots in the neck.

Nerve impingement is most often caused by a herniated disc or spinal stenosis.

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