Common Causes of a Herniated Disc
Herniated disc causes are often related to the natural aging process. With age comes deterioration of the entire body, and the spinal anatomy is not immune from this degeneration. Intervertebral discs begin to wear out after many years of neck and back movement and the constant strain of supporting body weight. During the course of this deterioration, a herniated disc might develop. A disc herniation occurs when some of the protein-based gel material inside the disc pushes through a tear or rupture in the outer wall. The condition might also be called a ruptured disc, a slipped disc or a prolapsed disc.
The Intervertebral Disc
In order to fully understand herniated disc causes, it helps to have a basic understanding of the anatomy of an intervertebral disc. Each disc has two main components:
- Nucleus pulposus – Gel-like inner disc material that gives the disc its flexibility and sponge-like qualities
- Annulus fibrosus – The layered, cartilaginous outer shell that gives the disc its resiliency and shape
A herniated disc refers to a condition that develops in the spinal column when a tear occurs in the annulus fibrosus, which may allow the nucleus pulposus to seep out of the disc and into the spinal column. As mentioned, these ruptures are often related to the aging process. But what actually causes the tears to develop?
Specific Herniated Disc Causes
Individuals of all ages and levels of health can develop a herniated disc. That said, the condition (as with most degenerative spine conditions) is most commonly experienced by those who have reached middle age. In addition to age, nearly any activity that puts undue strain on the spine can be a risk factor for a herniated disc. For instance, athletes are often at risk for accelerated spinal deterioration as a result of the repetitive strain that they place on their bodies. Obese individuals are also especially prone to herniated discs because the burden placed on the spine by excessive body weight can eventually lead to disc problems. Furthermore, if an individual leads a relatively sedentary lifestyle, the resulting weakened muscles are unable to provide the spine with the support it needs to stay healthy.
While most herniated disc causes are unavoidable, treatment is often a matter of working closely with a physician to develop an effective regimen. In most cases, a combination of conservative treatment methods alleviates pain caused by a herniated disc. However, if several months of conservative techniques fail to mitigate a patient’s symptoms, more advanced treatment may be required. To learn more about the most common herniated disc causes, contact your physician today, and if you’re interested in learning about how an outpatient, minimally invasive procedure might be able to help you find relief from your symptoms, contact Laser Spine Institute.