A herniated disc occurs when the rubbery cushioning, or disc, that sits between the vertebrae tears or ruptures.
Since the discs are filled with a soft, jellylike center that keeps the spine moving properly and comfortably, a rupture in the disc reduces the cushioning between vertebrae, potentially creating back pain and numbness or weakness in an arm or leg.
Herniated discs typically occur in the lower back or neck. While herniated discs are common, factors within your control can reduce the risk of developing a herniated disc. Some of these risk factors are described below.
Those who are overweight or obese put more strain or stress on their spine, so the discs, which act as shock absorbers between the vertebrae, incur more pressure, leading to a herniated disc.
Excess weight can also alter the natural curve of your spine, changing the discs’ pressure points and making them more likely to tear or rupture.
Certain medical conditions, such as osteoarthritis or degenerative disc disease, increase your risk of developing a herniated disc. For example, osteoarthritis in the spine causes the cartilage in the spinal discs and joints to break down over time, adding strain to the discs.
Similarly, degenerative disc disease causes the water and gel in the disc to dry out, shifting the pressure on the disc slowly and making the disc more likely to crack and tear. Both conditions are closely connected to the development of herniated discs.
Physically Demanding Jobs and Activities
Those with professions that require repeated heavy lifting, twisting, pulling, and pushing put themselves at higher risk of developing a herniated disc or another spinal condition. The consistent, repetitive strain on the spine through these motions can eventually cause the spinal discs to rupture or tear.
Smoking can dehydrate discs and limit their oxygen supply, causing them to break down and become fragile more quickly.
Those who spend most of their days sitting at a desk or with little exercise and movement can shorten and weaken the muscles that support the spine, leading to misalignment and increased susceptibility to injury.
Regular exercise can strengthen the lower back muscles, preventing injuries and pain from conditions like a herniated disc. Strong muscles help your body support your weight and take undue pressure off the spine. For example, walking one to two miles daily can drastically decrease your risk of a herniated disc.
This post was written by a medical professional at Stemedix Inc. At Stemedix we provide access to Regenerative Medicine for back pain, also known as stem cell therapy for degenerative disc disease. Regenerative medicine has the natural potential to help improve symptoms sometimes lost from the progression of many conditions.