While many herniated nucleus pulposus (HNP) risk factors (such as aging) are unavoidable, some causes can be controlled. It’s important to understand these risk factors at an early age, so as to decrease the chances for developing a herniated disc later in life, when they typically occur.
What is an HNP?
An intervertebral disc provides cushion to the bone structure in the neck and back. Discs are composed of two parts: the nucleus pulposus (a jellylike substance in the inside) and the annulus fibrosus (the tough exterior). Continued stress can cause the annulus fibrosus to break down and tear. When this happens, the nucleus pulposus can herniate and seep into the spinal canal.
What Causes an HNP?
A variety of risk factors can contribute toward the development of a herniated disc, including the following:
- Lifestyle – Certain factors can contribute to the stress placed on an intervertebral disc, including a sedentary lifestyle, obesity and working in physically demanding jobs. All of these factors can cause patients to develop a herniated disc at a younger age than is normal.
- Age – Even if a patient avoids the above lifestyle choices, a disc can still herniate as a result of the natural aging process. The amount of water in a disc decreases as a person gets older, allowing the disc to provide less cushion and support to the vertebrae. Continual stress from everyday activities (such as sitting and walking) can cause the annulus fibrosus to break down over time, sometimes giving birth to a herniated disc.
Understanding risk factors and knowing the source of their symptoms can help patients better cope with their spinal conditions. For patients who are not able to prevent a herniated disc, there are several treatment options available to them, including surgery. The minimally invasive endoscopic procedures performed at Laser Spine Institute present less risk than open-back surgery and allow many patients to recover in less than one week. Contact Laser Spine Institute to schedule a free CT scan or MRI review and to learn more about our safe and effective procedures.