What causes a ruptured disc?

To learn what causes a ruptured disc, which is a fairly common spinal condition, it can be helpful to first understand what this condition is. Also known as a torn or herniated disc, a ruptured disc can occur for several reasons, but the primary cause for many patients is aging.

A healthy spinal disc is well-hydrated and spongy, absorbing shock and pressure from the surrounding vertebrae. A spinal disc consists of a tough outer wall of cartilage and a gel-like inner material. Like other parts of the body, these discs dehydrate with age, which causes them to lose their elasticity. This can make them susceptible to bulging or cracking.

As the surrounding vertebrae continue to rely on a degenerating disc that can no longer support itself, the disc’s center can push outward against the fragile outer wall. A ruptured disc can occur when the inner disc material leaks out of a crack or tear in the outer wall and into the spinal canal.

Other causes of a ruptured disc

  • Vibrations. People who are exposed to prolonged vibrations, such as truck drivers or construction workers, may be more likely to develop a ruptured disc.
  • Sports. Forceful impact on the neck and back while playing sports can lead to a torn disc.
  • Lifting. Poor lifting habits, like lifting with your legs instead of your back, put undue stress on the lumbar (lower) region of the spine.
  • Lifestyle habits. Obesity may contribute to disc degeneration because the spine must compensate for the extra weight. Cigarette smoking can release toxins into the body that speed up the breakdown of cartilage while decreasing the nutrient supply to spinal discs.
  • Genetics. Some people are predisposed to disc degeneration if spinal problems run in the family.

If you are in pain

Pain from a ruptured disc is usually the result of displaced disc material compressing the spinal cord or a nerve root. Upon diagnosis, most physicians will recommend a course of conservative treatment to relieve symptoms and help regain lost mobility.

If a ruptured disc is causing you pain, and methods such as medication, chiropractic adjustments and physical therapy have not provided you with acceptable relief, contact Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive spine surgery is an alternative to traditional open neck or back procedures. We perform outpatient procedures using a small, muscle-sparing incision that helps our patients avoid hospital-associated costs and enjoy a shorter recovery period.^

Reach out to our dedicated team of Spine Care Consultants today for a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you may be a potential candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery.