Americans are hardly strangers to lower back pain — in fact, 80% of the population reports having some experience with pain in their lower backs at some point in their lives. While lower back pain can develop for a number of different reasons, a herniated disc certainly ranks among the more common.
At Texas Spine Consultants, under the experienced direction of Dr. Michael Ware Hennessy, our team offers a wide range of services that address spinal problems of all kinds, including herniated discs. As musculoskeletal experts, we understand the many factors that can contribute to problems along your spine and here we review one of the more prevalent — your weight.
Your spine, your foundation
To better understand how weight plays a role in the health of your spine, it’s helpful to step back and review the anatomy of this all-important structure.
Your spine is made up of 33 vertebrae that stretch from your head to your pelvis. These vertebrae are separated by 23 vertebral discs that provide cushioning and support along the length of your spine. To accomplish this, each of your discs features a tough outer layer called the annulus fibrosus, which is made up of collagen fibers. This outer layer houses a jelly-like substance called the nucleus pulposus.
Your discs are not only responsible for the shock absorption between your vertebrae, they also hold your vertebrae together and allow movement along your spine, especially in your lumbar and cervical spine areas (your lower back and neck, respectively).
In other words, your discs play a critical role in your spine’s ability to provide you with foundational support, mobility, and range of motion. And, when something goes wrong with one of your discs, each of these areas is greatly affected, placing considerable limitations on your life.
The road to a herniated disc
A herniated disc is one that escapes the space between your vertebrae and compresses one of the highly sensitive nerves and/or nerve roots along your spine. There are many factors that place you more at risk for developing a herniated disc, and weight is one of the more common.
We reviewed the anatomy of your spine above to provide you with a clear picture of how this structure functions. While your back is designed to withstand a fair amount of stress, when you add weight to your frame, you’re compressing the discs between your vertebrae, leaving them more prone to herniation.
Not only does extra weight create more up-and-down pressure, if you’re carrying extra weight around your belly, you may be hunching forward more, which creates additional stresses on your discs.
Of course, there are other factors that can lead to a herniated disc, such as age and excessive sitting, which compresses your spine unnaturally, weight can greatly exacerbate the problem.
Remedying your herniated disc
If you have a herniated disc, we do everything in our power to help with your discomfort, including corticosteroid injections and anti-inflammatory medications. And our treatment plans also typically involve physical therapy or lifestyle changes that will help strengthen your beleaguered spine through diet and exercise, helping you to avoid more problems down the road.
If you have more questions about how your weight may make you more vulnerable to a herniated disc, please contact one of our two locations in Addison or Plano, Texas.