What is a Herniated Disc?
The spine runs down the middle of the back. A healthy spinal cord is completely straight with all bones and discs in place. A herniated disc occurs when a disc of the spinal cord begins to move out of place, and this can cause chronic and severe back pain. Every vertebra is surrounded by protective discs, and when a disc begins to push out or in, the extra pressure goes directly to the spine. Basically, the disc has slipped out of its normal position within the spine. Most herniated disc cases are seen in the lower back. This cause of chronic back pain goes by several names. Patients may hear about a “slipped disc,” “pinched nerve,” “bulging disc,” or “ruptured disc,” but these conditions are the same and what we refer to as a “herniated disc.”
What Causes a Herniated Disc?
Typically herniated discs are caused by the wear and tear of aging. The outer ring of your intervertebral disc becomes weakened over time, which allows the inner disc to slip out of place. Factors that may add to your risk for developing a herniated, ruptured, or slipped disc are:
- Being overweight
- Wear and tear over time
- Sitting for long periods of time
- Weak back muscles
- An injury to the spine
- Lifting, moving, or twisting with heavy objects using the wrong technique
- Constant pulling, lifting, or straining of the back and spine
- A family history of disc degeneration
Herniated discs are also more common in men than women.