A spinal disc is a rubbery cushion located between the individual bones of your spine. These discs prevent the bones in your spine from rubbing against each other, and they make your spine flexible.
A herniated disc is a disc that leaks its core fluid due to compression or injury. As a result, it puts pressure on the surrounding nerves and tissues. Although this can occur to any disc in the spine, herniated discs are most commonly diagnosed in the lower back.
A herniated disc in the neck may cause symptoms in the upper spine and arms, whereas a herniated disc in the thoracic or lumbar spine may cause symptoms in the middle and lower back and the legs.
Here, our specialist at Premier Spine Institute, Dr. Bonaventure Ngu, discusses how herniated discs occur and what treatments are available for the condition.
Herniated disc causes
Risk factors for developing a herniated disc include the following:
- Jobs that involve bending over daily
- Lifting heavy weights daily
- Sitting down over prolonged periods
- Disc desiccation (losing fluid in the discs)
All of these risk factors have one common element: wear and tear. It may not be apparent at first how both sitting down and lifting heavy weights can cause wear and tear, but both of these activities cause your spine to flex for a prolonged period of time.
Ideally, you want to switch between sitting down and standing upright, and you should take breaks from lifting weights.
Obesity can also cause wear and tear. The extra body weight pushes down your spine, making it more likely for the rubbery discs to get squeezed between the bones.
Losing fluid in spinal discs is often associated with aging. However, not everyone experiences it as they age. Disc desiccation often occurs to those who experience trauma to the spine or take diuretic medications.
Signs and symptoms of a herniated disc
The most common symptoms associated with bulging discs or herniated discs are:
- Localized pain
- Numbness and tingling in the legs or arms
- Loss of sensation in the legs or arms
- Weakness in the legs or arms
Symptoms usually flare up after lifting weights or straining the spine. Most people benefit from ice and hot therapy during a flare-up.
Treatment options for herniated discs
Depending on the cause of your symptoms, you may be asked to improve your posture, make adjustments to your workspace, or lose a few pounds.
Our experts may recommend medications and injections for pain relief. If your discs are severely compressed and conservative methods fail to provide relief from your symptoms, we may recommend surgery.
Contact us to schedule an appointment. Find out what’s causing your symptoms and get expert help for your herniated disc.