A herniated disc has many risk factors, but the single most common cause of a ruptured intervertebral disc is aging. As we get older, the spongy, cartilaginous pads that separate adjacent spinal vertebrae become weak, dry, and thin. They lose height and flexibility, and their protective properties diminish. It is not uncommon for the fibrous disc wall to tear, also called rupturing or herniation, and the inner nucleus material to leak into the spinal canal. Because pairs of spinal nerves exit the spinal cord through the spinal canal, any anatomical abnormalities, like herniated discs, can cause painful neural compression.
Is There a Way to Prevent a Herniated Disc?
While there is no way to prevent the aging process, there are ways to make sure that your spine stays as healthy and as strong as possible while you age, though no regimen of diet or exercise should ever be attempted without a doctor’s supervision. Measures that can help prevent a herniated disc include:
- Low-impact exercise – walking or swimming can strengthen back muscles without putting undue stress on the joints or intervertebral discs
- Mild stretching – keeping ligaments supple means they can aid your spine’s overall flexibility
- A healthy diet – foods high in calcium and omega fatty acids can keep bones, discs, and joint spaces healthy
- Cessation of smoking – toxins in cigarettes reduce circulation and prevent your intervertebral discs from absorbing the nutrients they need
Resorption and Herniated Discs
The good news is that most herniated discs will heal themselves over time as long as you know how to treat a herniated disc. With a combination of pain medication, physical therapy, and rest, torn intervertebral discs will undergo “resorption,” which is the process of the body’s soft tissues releasing chemicals that slowly break down the extruded disc material so that it can be reabsorbed by the body.
If you have attempted conservative rehabilitation for your herniated disc pain, but your symptoms persist for three months or longer, your spine pain has become chronic and may require more targeted forms of treatment. In this case, contact Laser Spine Institute for more information about herniated disc risk factors, or for a free review of your MRI or CT scan.