Herniated Disc

(Disk, Herniated; Herniation of Nucleus Pulposus [HNP]; Prolapsed Disc; Ruptured Disc; Slipped Disc)

Definition

Discs are small circular, compressible cushions between the vertebral bones in the spinal column. They act as cushions for the vertebrae. A herniated disc bulges from its proper place, putting pressure on spinal nerves. This is most common in the lower spine.
Herniated Lumbar Disc
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Causes

A herniated disc is caused by reduced water content, which results in flattening and less cushioning. It can also be the result of trauma.

Risk Factors

A herniated disc is generally associated with normal aging. It is more common in people after age 30 years of age. Other factors that may increase your chance of a herniated disc include:
  • Trauma from a fall, accident, or sudden twisting
  • Strain on the back—either repeated or sudden, as from lifting a heavy weight
  • Certain jobs that require heavy lifting
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes

Symptoms

A herniated disc may cause:
  • Pain
    • May be sharp, dull, piercing, aching, burning, or throbbing, depending on the disc and size of herniation
    • May spread over the back, buttocks, down the back of one thigh, and into the calf
    • May be in one leg or both legs
  • Numbness, tingling, or weakness in the legs, feet, or in one or both arms
  • In severe cases, inability to find comfort even lying down
  • Sudden aching or twisted neck that cannot be straightened without severe pain
  • Cauda equina syndrome —involves bowel or bladder changes and/or numbness in the groin
    • Note: —This is an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.

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