Herniated Disc: Symptoms, Causes, and Risk Factors

by Gregory
Herniated Disc

A herniated disc is a problem with one of the discs that cushion the vertebrae that stack to make your spine. These small discs have a rubbery exterior (annulus) which encloses a soft jelly-like center (nucleus). Sometimes a herniated disc Houston occurs when the nucleus pushes through a tear or weak spot in the annulus. A herniated disc can occur in the cervical, thoracic, or lumbar spine, but it mainly affects the cervical and lumbar regions of the spine.

The symptoms of a herniated disc

Most people with a herniated disc do not have symptoms, and for those who have, the symptoms tend to improve over time. The symptoms also vary depending on where the disc has herniated along the spine. For example, a herniated disc along the cervical region may cause dull or sharp pain in the neck that radiates down the arm and fingers. The pain occurs when the displaced disc presses on some nerves. Certain positions and movements can worsen the pain of cervical herniated discs.

A herniated disc in the lumbar region of the spine causes low back pain. If the disc presses on the nerves contributing to the sciatic nerve, you may have pain, burning, tingling, and numbness that radiates from the buttock to the leg and foot. These symptoms usually affect one side of the body; patients describe the pain as sharp and electric-shock-like.

The pain may worsen when you walk, stand, sit, or straighten the leg on the affected side.

What causes a herniated disc?

Disk degeneration or gradual aging-related wear and tear is the most common cause of a herniated disc. As you age, various disc changes occur; for example, discs dry out and lose flexibility, making them susceptible to tears and ruptures even with a minor strain or twist.

Sometimes a herniated disc may result from a single excessive strain; this may be due to lifting a heavy object using your back instead of the leg and thigh muscles. Although rare, a traumatic event like a hard fall to the back can cause a herniated disc. Most people can’t establish the cause of their herniated disc.

Risk factors of a herniated disc

Some people are more vulnerable to disc problems and may suffer herniated discs in several spaces along the spine. Examples of factors that increase your risk for a herniated disc include

  • Occupation. People with physically demanding jobs that require repetitive pulling, pushing, lifting, and bending have a greater risk of developing herniated discs. These include construction workers and those who work at mines.
  • Weight. The more your body weight, the greater the pressure or stress on the lower back discs. Losing extra weight reduces your risk of a herniated disc and other health problems like type 2 diabetes and hypertension.
  • Genetics. A predisposition of herniated discs exists in families where several members have the same problem.
  • Smoking. Smoking narrows blood vessels, lessening blood supply to the discs. Consequently, the discs degenerate or break down quickly, increasing the risk of a herniated disc.

If you have herniated disc symptoms, book a session with your doctor at William L Yancey, MD, for treatment to improve your quality of life.

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