The symptoms that come with a herniated disc can make life very uncomfortable, if not downright painful, which is why you want to avoid the problem in the first place. One of the first steps toward warding off a herniated disc is to understand the causes and contributing factors.
To help, the spine specialists who make up our exceptional team here at Texas Spine Consultants, including Michael Hennessy, MD, Robert Viere, MD, Andrew Park, MD, Chester Donnally, MD, and Heidi Lee, MD, thought we’d focus on the underlying causes of a herniated disc.
A herniated disc explained
There are many names to describe a herniated disc — slipped, bulging, ruptured, pinched — but they all come down to one thing — an intervertebral disc that has escaped its normal place along your spine and pressed up against a sensitive nerve or nerve root.
Your discs are made up of a tough, but pliable, outer layer (the annulus), which houses a soft, jellylike substance on the inside (nucleus). When a disc herniates, there’s usually a tear in the annulus, which allows the materials inside to leak out and irritate nearby nerves.
Common causes of herniated discs
There are several causes or risk factors when it comes to herniated discs, some of which you have control over, while others you don’t. Let’s first look at those conditions that are beyond your control to change, including:
As you get older, your discs naturally lose moisture and become more prone to tearing. Age is the leading factor when it comes to degenerative disc disease, alongside wear-and-tear.
Heredity plays an important role in your health, which is certainly true of your spine health. If your family is prone to weakened discs, you may be, too.
Now let’s put age aside and take a look at some of the risk factors that you have some influence over:
If you’re carrying extra pounds, you place more pressure on your intervertebral discs, which can cause them to weaken and degenerate quickly.
Using your back incorrectly
There are ways in which you can protect your back, such as lifting with your legs, and we urge you to pay heed if you want to avoid a herniated disc. Placing too much stress on your back, such as routinely engaging in heavy lifting, can greatly weaken your discs over time.
If you smoke, you’re reducing the amount of oxygen your discs receive thanks to poor circulation.
If you want to avoid the pain and discomfort of a herniated disc, implementing some lifestyle changes that offset the risk factors we list above can go a long way toward that goal.
If you’ve developed a herniated disc, rest assured, our team is here to help you remedy the problem.
To learn more about preventing and treating herniated discs, contact one of our offices in Addison or Plano, Texas, to set up an appointment.