Herniated disc causes and treatments

A herniated disc — a disc in the spine that has ruptured — can sometimes cause sharp pain in the affected area, as well as numbness, tingling, muscle weakness and pain that spreads into the limbs.

This condition typically occurs when a spinal disc weakens, causing the central core of the disc to put added pressure on the disc’s outer wall. The extra stress on the outer wall of a disc can lead to a crack or tear, causing the gel-like center of the disc to leak into the spinal canal.

Depending on the severity and location of a herniated disc, the painful symptoms associated with this condition may differ for each person. Let’s take a look at why these symptoms occur and what causes a herniated disc in the first place.

Herniated disc causes and risk factors

If you have a herniated disc, it may be surprising to learn that it can be caused by one thing we all experience: getting older.
As the body ages, it’s common for elements of the spine — including spinal discs — to begin to weaken over time. Everyday movements like bending, twisting, standing or sitting can put extra pressure on the spine. Gradually, this normal wear and tear can weaken the discs in your spine.

When a disc begins to weaken or degenerate, it can get dehydrated, making it harder and less flexible during body movements. These changes make the outer wall of a disc more likely to crack or tear. When damage is done to the outer wall of a disc, the gel-like center spills outside of the disc, resulting in a herniation.

While aging is the most common cause of herniated discs, there are some risk factors that can contribute to the deterioration of discs or other parts of the spine, including:

  • Body weight — Excess body weight puts extra force against the spine, making it harder for your neck and back to support you.
  • Smoking — Smoking tobacco decreases the nutrients absorbed by the spinal discs, which they need to remain strong, flexible and healthy. Smoking makes the discs more prone to bulging and herniation.
  • Alcohol — Alcoholic beverages can act as muscle relaxers, which means that the spine may not be properly supported until the effects of alcohol wear off. Unnatural pressure to the spine can weaken your discs.
  • Physical activity — Everyday activities that require constant lifting, twisting or bending can add extra stress to the spine. High-impact sports are also a risk factor for weakening the components of your spine.

To take charge of your spinal health, avoid these activities or learn how to modify them the tips posted on our wellness blog.

Treating herniated discs

We recommend that you speak with your doctor if you think you’re experiencing neck or back pain caused by a herniated disc. To treat a herniated disc, your doctor will typically recommend nonsurgical treatment, such as pain medication, chiropractic care, hot and cold therapies, or other treatment methods. If nonsurgical treatment has not provided the pain relief you’ve been hoping for, herniated disc surgery is an option.

Using a less than 1-inch incision, our board-certified surgeons+ use minimally invasive outpatient procedures to treat chronic neck and back pain. With a 96 patient satisfaction score^, our minimally invasive spine surgery is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery^.

Depending on the severity of the herniated disc, our surgeons may recommend minimally invasive decompression surgery or minimally invasive stabilization surgery.

Decompression surgery is performed by removing a small portion of the herniated disc, which takes pressure off the nerve that’s causing you pain. Depending on the condition of the herniated disc, a stabilization surgery may be performed to remove the entire disc and replace it with an implant, providing immediate spinal stability and pain relief.

If you’ve been diagnosed with a herniated disc that your doctor has tried to treat without success, contact Laser Spine Institute for an MRI review.

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