Herniated disc risk factors

There are many risk factors that can lead to a herniated disc, but the single most common cause is aging. As we get older, the rubbery discs that separate the vertebrae can weaken, dry and thin. This leads to increased pressure that in turn can cause the hard outer shell of the disc to tear. When the gel-like inner disc material spills into the spinal canal, it is diagnosed as a herniated disc. If any displaced material compresses on a spinal nerve, it can cause you very painful chronic symptoms.

Is there a way to prevent a herniated disc?

While there is no way to stop the aging process, there are ways to keep your spine as healthy and strong as possible through the years. When developing a care plan to treat or prevent a herniated disc, it is important to always partner with a physician. Measures that can help prevent a herniated disc include:

  • Low-impact exercise — Walking or swimming can strengthen back muscles and the cardiovascular system without putting undue stress on joints or spinal discs.
  • Mild stretching — Keeping ligaments loose improves your spine’s overall flexibility.
  • A healthy diet — Nutrient-rich foods can keep you healthy, while losing weight reduces the pressure on your spine.
  • Quitting smoking — Toxins in cigarettes reduce circulation and block absorption of nutrients.

Resorption and herniated discs

The good news is that a herniated disc can heal over time. In fact, most patients are able to successfully treat a herniated disc with conservative, nonsurgical options like pain medication, physical therapy and rest. A process called resorption — where chemicals released by the body actually break down the extruded disc material over time — has been shown to heal mild herniated discs in many patients.

Treatment options

If a full round of conservative treatment has been completed and you are still experiencing an unacceptable level of herniated disc pain, you and your doctor may then consider surgical options. The minimally invasive spine surgery performed at Laser Spine Institute is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery,^ and we can even treat some of the most severe herniated discs with our minimally invasive stabilization procedures.

Contact Laser Spine Institute for more information about herniated disc risk factors, or for a review of your MRI or CT scan.

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