The spine is a column of bones protected by discs in between them. These discs are rounded gel-like cushions with a hard outer layer and a nucleus. The annulus (outer layer) and the nucleus form the disc. When the disc is fragmented or torn, it can be pushed out of its outer layer. The bulge causes damage to the spinal nerves that surround the spine, causing pain.
Pain due to a herniated disc can be felt in the cervical or lumbar region. With a herniated disc, the disc cannot perform its function to serve as a shock absorber. The bulging can cause pain ranging from mild to severe.
Signs and Symptoms
The level of pain caused by a herniated disc varies; it depends where the herniated disc is located and how large the herniation is. But most herniated discs occur in the lumbar spine. It is common to have pain regardless of where the bulging is since it may press into the nerves surrounding it.
Some pain is not felt at all if the herniated disc is not pressing on any nerves. At times, there is only mild back pain. Pain can be temporary, episodal or chronic. Disruption on the nerves, especially if the bulge is bigger, will cause radiating pain.
Typically, a herniated disc may be suspected if any of the following is experienced:
- Muscle weakness in the arms or legs
- Numbness of the back, buttock, leg, or foot
- Tingling sensation
- Low back pain
- Sharp pain in the neck, shoulder blade, arms or fingers
The material that envelopes the disc is subject to wear and tear. Injury, for example, may tear a disc and cause it to bulge. Wearing, an age related injury, causes the disc to lose it’s elasticity. This occurrence is more of a natural degeneration process since the twisting and strain cause the ligaments to weaken.
The reasons behind being vulnerable to bulging discs are varied. It can happen to anyone and can occur to different locations of the spine. Genetic causes are also a root cause.
Causes for a herniated disc could be any of the following:
- Wear and tear of discs
- Awkward movement and body twist while lifting heavy objects
- Lifting of heavy objects
- Being overweight or obese
- Injuries from accidents
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