The spine contains rubbery cushions called discs that sit between the spinal vertebrae. These discs hold the spine’s vertebrae together, act as shock absorbers, and allow slight mobility within the spine. They contain a soft, jelly-like center called the nucleus and a tough outer membrane called the annulus. Due to aging and other causes such as spinal injuries, part of the nucleus might push through a tear or weak spot in the annulus. Atlanta herniated disc can occur anywhere along your spine, but it primarily affects the neck and back region. Below are the symptoms, causes, and risk factors for herniated discs.
Symptoms for herniated discs
Symptoms depend on the location of the herniated disc and whether the disc is pressing on nerve roots. Most people experience symptoms in one part of the body.
- Pain. A herniated disc in the lower back may cause pain in your back, buttocks, thigh, and calf. You may also have pain in the affected foot. If you have a bulged disc in your neck, you will have the most pain in your shoulder and arm, which radiates to your arm or leg when you sneeze, cough, or make specific movements. Most people describe the pain as sharp or burning.
- Numbness. A herniated disc may cause loss of sensation if some of the nerves are pressed. The numbness and tingling are often present in the body part served by the affected nerves. You may also experience muscle weakness which can cause you to stumble or shake when lifting or holding items.
However, herniated discs don’t always cause symptoms. Without knowing, you can have a herniated disc until it shows up on a spinal image.
What causes herniated discs?
Herniated discs often result from wear and tear changes that gradually occur as you grow older. Discs lose hydration, become less flexible, and are prone to tears even with a minor strain or twists as you age. It may be difficult for you to establish the cause of your herniated disc. Sometimes discs may bulge due to improper lifting – using back muscles instead of thigh and leg muscles to lift heavy objects. Injuries to the spinal cord or a single excessive strain can also cause a disc to bulge or rupture.
Risk factors or herniated discs
Certain people are more vulnerable to disc problems than others. The following factors predispose you to herniated discs.
- Occupation. Individuals with physically demanding jobs that require repetitive bending, lifting, pulling, pushing, and twisting are more likely to have herniated discs. These include carpenters and construction site workers.
- Weight. Excess body weight exerts extra pressure on the discs in your lower back, increasing your risk of disc problems. For this reason, specialists advise losing extra pounds and maintaining a healthy body mass index to prevent herniated discs and other severe issues like diabetes and high blood pressure.
- Smoking. Nicotine constricts blood vessels, limiting oxygen and nutrient supply in your body, including the spine. The decreased oxygen supply causes discs to degenerate faster.
Consult your doctor at Polaris Spine & Neurosurgery Center to learn about the available treatment options for a herniated disc.