The vertebrae (your back bones) are cushioned by a series of flat, rubbery discs that offer shock absorption and stability to the spine. The spinal discs are made up of a tough exterior with a softer interior. In the case of a herniated disc, the inner material is forced out of a crack in the disc’s casing and presses against a nerve – herniated discs most commonly occur in the lower back and are also experienced in the neck. Herniated discs can be very painful. What are the causes of a herniated disc and how can you treat the condition?
What Causes Herniated Discs?
- Age is a factor in the risk of herniated discs. As you get older you lose water from the discs in the spine, which leaves them at greater risk of damage as they are less flexible.
- Discs are damaged when you twist and turn when lifting a heavy object, when you bend awkwardly, when you are injured playing sports, or when you try to push a heavy object.
- When the disc has already been damaged by age, a relatively small movement or a fall could cause the disc to rupture or break.
- Herniated discs are associated with a genetic predisposition to disc degeneration.
- People who work in professions involving a lot of heavy lifting are more likely to suffer from a herniated disc.
- If you are overweight you put more stress on the spinal discs and are at greater risk of damaging the discs.
What are the Symptoms of Herniated Discs?
- Pain, discomfort, tingling, burning or numbness in the affected area – the buttocks, legs and feet when the herniated disc is in the lower back, and the shoulders and arms when the herniated disc is in the neck.
- Usually one side of your body is affected and pain is felt in one leg or one arm.
- Herniated discs can cause mobility problems.
- The pain from a herniated disc is usually more severe when you stand, sit, or walk.
How are Herniated Discs Treated?
Most herniated discs will heal without the need for surgery. Surgery is not normally the first or preferred treatment option because of the intrusive nature of the procedure. Treatment can be carried out with physical therapy – techniques like hot and cold applications, ultrasound, massage, manipulations and exercises can relieve the pain of a herniated disc. You can also help yourself to a recovery by taking care not to overuse the affected muscles and nerves, taking care when you lift and move heavy objects, and not sitting in an uncomfortable position for a long period of time.