How age affects the likelihood of a herniated disc

If you are like many others, you have probably experienced more neck or back pain as you age than you did when you were younger.

For many adults over the age of 50, the natural deterioration and weakening of the spine can cause several degenerative spine conditions to develop. One of these conditions is a herniated disc, which is a disc in the spine that has torn and leaked inner disc fluid. While a herniated disc can sometimes go unnoticed, symptoms of pain and discomfort can occur if the herniated disc or inner disc fluid presses against a nerve root near the spine.

Understanding how spine degeneration can affect your likelihood of developing a herniated disc or other degenerative spine condition can help you make small lifestyle changes to possibly postpone any serious back pain. While aging is unavoidable, simple lifestyle changes can help improve your overall spine health and sometimes deter the risk of developing a degenerative spine condition.

Why is a herniated disc more likely as you age?

As we age, two things happen to the discs in the spine: the discs begin to dehydrate and lose their proper height and shape, and the elasticity in the outer layer of the discs begins to stretch and weaken, causing the discs to lose shape.

There are a few risk factors that can increase disc dehydration as you age, such as:

  • Smoking
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Inactivity (decreases circulation to the disc)

Additionally, there are several risk factors that can lead to unnecessary pressure on the discs, which can cause the elasticity in the disc to lose shape. These risks include:

  • Obesity
  • Weak core muscles (lack of support for the spine)
  • Improper lifting

Managing the symptoms of a herniated disc

Many patients who develop a herniated disc can manage symptoms using conservative treatment, such as pain medication and physical therapy. These treatments help relieve pressure on the nerve root and increase circulation to the disc so the body can begin to heal itself through the process of resorption.

However, if chronic pain persists after several weeks or months of conservative treatment, surgery may be recommended.

At Laser Spine Institute, we offer minimally invasive spine surgery as a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery. Our minimally invasive decompression and stabilization procedures work to treat herniated discs by removing the portion of the disc that is pressing against the nerve root. For many patients, this requires a discectomy decompression procedure that does not alter the support of the spine.

In some cases, if the disc is severely damaged and is no longer able to support the spine, a stabilization surgery may be necessary. This simply means that the herniated disc will be removed to relieve pressure on the pinched nerve, and an artificial disc will be inserted to stabilize the spine.

For more information about the benefits of our minimally invasive spine surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute and request a review of your MRI report or CT scan.

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