What Is Disc Herniation?

The spine is comprised of individual bones called vertebrae, and in between each vertebra, is an intervertebral disc. These discs help to provide stability for the spine, and also act as shock absorbers. An intervertebral disc consists of two layers: an inner, jelly-like layer called the nucleus pulposus and an outer, fibrous layer called the annulus fibrosis. A herniated disc occurs when some of the inner layer of the intervertebral disc ruptures through a weakened point in the outer layer. A herniated disc can irritate nearby spinal nerves, which can result in back pain as well as numbness or weakness in the upper or lower extremities.

The severity of disc herniation symptoms varies among patients, with some patients having no pain while others report debilitating pain. Disc herniations can occur throughout the spine; however, they are most common in the lumbar region (lower back), followed by the cervical region (neck).

The most common symptoms of disc herniation include:

  • Pain: If the herniated disc is in the lower back, the pain is likely to be the most intense in the buttocks, thigh, and calf on the affected side. It may also affect the foot. On the other hand, if the herniated disc is in the neck, the pain is likely to be the most intense in the shoulder and arm. The pain may have a shooting quality into the extremities when a patient coughs, sneezes, or moves in certain ways when a disc herniation is present.
  • Tingling or numbness: These sensations may be felt in the area supplied by the nerves that are being irritated by the disc herniation.
  • Weakness: Muscles that are supplied by the irritated nerves may weaken when a disc herniation occurs.

Disc Herniation | PainDoctor.com

Causes Of Disc Herniation

The most common cause of disc herniation occurs due to gradual, age-related, wear and tear, which is known as disc degeneration. The intervertebral disc lose some of their water content during the normal aging process, which make them less flexible and more prone to injury.

Oftentimes patients are unable to identify the cause of their herniated disc. However, sometimes heavy lifting or improper lifting technique can be to blame. In rare instances, a traumatic event such as a motor vehicle accident or a slip and fall can result in a disc herniation.

A number of individual risk factors have been identified that increase an individual’s risk of suffering a disc herniation, including:

  • Obesity: Excess body weight places extra stress on the intervertebral disc in the lumbar spine, making them more prone to herniation.
  • Physically demanding occupations: Jobs that entail repetitive lifting, twisting,