Herniated disc causes, risk factors and treatments

A herniated disc can be extremely difficult to live with, causing many people to experience pain, tingling, numbness or muscle weakness in places like the neck, back, shoulders, hips or extremities. Some patients are surprised to receive a herniated disc diagnosis, especially if they believe this condition is usually caused by traumatic injury to the spine. However, herniated discs are much more commonly caused by the natural aging process and degenerative changes to spinal anatomy.

Herniated discs and the natural aging process

The discs in the spine are positioned between the vertebrae, cushioning them and absorbing the pressure of weight and movement. Natural aging, which causes the discs to dry out and lose elasticity, makes them less able to withstand the stress being placed on them. These factors lead to a herniated disc when the soft inner core of a disc begins to push out through a tear in the weakened outer layer. This is why aging is considered to be among the most common herniated disc causes.

Additional risk factors for a herniated disc

While age is the primary cause of herniated discs and other degenerative spine conditions, there are some risk factors that can contribute to premature deterioration of the spine, such as:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Using tobacco products
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Poor posture
  • Participating in high-impact sports
  • Working in strenuous occupations

Since getting older is something no one can prevent, it is important to make any necessary lifestyle changes that can improve spine health. This can include a healthy diet, regular exercise, good posture and speaking with your doctor about a plan to quit smoking, if necessary.


Many people diagnosed with a herniated disc are able to find adequate relief from conservative, nonsurgical treatments, such as anti-inflammatory medication and physical therapy. If months of this mode of treatment have proven ineffective but you have concerns about the prospect of traditional open spine surgery, Laser Spine Institute may be able to help.

Since 2005, we have helped more than 60,000 patients relieve their chronic neck or back pain with our minimally invasive spine surgery. Contact us to learn about our streamlined outpatient experience and to receive a no-cost review of your MRI* from our team to determine if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures.

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