Have you ever experienced back pain that shoots down your leg, causing your everyday activities to become more difficult or even intolerable?
One cause of this extreme back pain is a herniated disc, which can also be called a slipped disc or a ruptured disc. The structure of your back and spine is made of bones that are cushioned by tiny oval pads of cartilage or disks consisting of a tough outer layer with a soft inner layer.
When a disc between two bones in the spine presses on the nerves around the backbone, it is called a herniated disc. Herniate means to bulge or stick out. Herniated discs are most common in the lumbar spine, which is the lower part of your backbone between the bottom of your ribs and your hips.
We want our patients to know exactly what happens when a disc becomes herniated. This happens when a small portion of the nucleus pushes out through a tear in the annulus into your spinal cord. The result is irritation of a nerve and also pain, numbness or weakness in your back as well as your leg or arm. With conservative treatment, a herniated disk can generally get better and surgery is often deemed unnecessary.
Disc herniation is most often caused by age-related wear and tear called degeneration of the discs. As you age, your spinal discs lose some of their water content, which makes them less flexible and more prone to tearing or rupturing with even a minor strain or twist. Often, you may not be able to pinpoint the exact cause of your herniated disc, and sometimes using your back muscles instead of your leg and thigh muscles to lift large, heavy objects can lead to a herniated disc.