Herniated discs are a common, painful condition. However, there’s often a lot of confusion lingering around what causes herniated discs and how best to treat them because it’s not always properly explained or understood. That’s why we’ve put together a list of some of the most common questions we encounter when it comes to herniated discs.
1. How do Herniated Discs Occur?
Spinal discs are made up of a tough outer layer (annulus fibrosus) filled with a gel-like inner layer (nucleus pulposus). These discs are located between each pair of bones (vertebrae) along the spine and provide shock absorption, flexibility, and mobility for the spine. Due to aging and normal wear and tear, our spinal discs tend to lose some of the inner gel-like fluid that makes them pliable and spongy. As a result, two things can typically occur which result in herniated discs:
- Added pressure is put on the spine, which can cause the disc’s outer ring to bulge, crack, or tear and push against the nearby nerve root.
- The inner gel-like material can begin to leak and irritate the nearby nerve root.
2. Do Herniated Discs Heal on Their Own?
Symptoms associated with herniated disc can be severe and painful, however, these symptoms are not always long-lasting. In fact, many people who develop a herniated disc have no symptoms six weeks later, even without medical treatment. Generally, it is believed that symptoms resolve themselves if the amount of herniated material is smaller in size, which reduces the likelihood it will irritate the nerve root.
3. What are Other Terms Used to Describe Herniated Discs?
Herniated discs are often referred to by a variety of names, which can lead to confusion. Alternate terms that are used to describe herniated discs include: slipped disc, ruptured disc, bulging disc, and pinched nerve.
4. What are Common Symptoms of Herniated Discs?
A herniated disc is caused by a number of different factors and the symptoms that accompany the condition depend largely on the location of the disc on the spine. Herniated discs most commonly occur in the lumbar spine (lower back) or the cervical spine (neck). Generally, once a disc herniates, it begins to press on surrounding nerves and causes symptoms like sharp or radiating pain, numbness, burning sensations, and sometimes muscle weakness in the extremities, including arms, legs and feet.
5. Who is Most at Risk for Herniated Discs?
There are a number of reasons herniated discs occur, but certain risk factors can add to the risk of developing this painful condition. These factors include:
- Age: Herniated discs are most likely to occur in individuals between 35 and 50 years old.
- Gender: Men are almost two times more likely to experience disc herniation than women.
- Physical Work and Labor: Jobs and activities which require heavy lifting, repetitive movements involving the spine, or other physically demanding work increase the chances of disc herniations.
- Obesity: Carrying around excess weight puts added stress on the spine, making people who are overweight or obese more likely to experience single and recurrent disc herniation.
- Smoking: Nicotine limits blood flow, which can expedite disc degeneration and hinder healing.
- Genetics: Many studies have shown that a family history of herniated discs is directly related to future risk.
How Champey Pain & Spine Can Help
A Champey Pain & Spine Group, we know that dealing with a chronic, painful condition like herniated discs can deeply impact your quality of life. If you have questions about herniated discs, or would like to speak to one of our spine specialists, please contact us today by clicking the button below.