A herniated disc occurs when a disc in the spine is damaged, bulges or breaks open. Doctors will also refer to this condition as a slipped or ruptured disc. Discs are the small and spongy material that fit in between the bones or vertebrae of the spine. They act as shock absorbers in the spine and help to keep the spine flexible and healthy.
A herniated disc can occur in any part of the spine but it most often occurs in the lower back and neck.Nearby nerves can become irritated by the herniated disc, which can cause pain, numbness or weakness in the arms or legs.
It is common for individuals to not experience any pain with this condition and not need any therapy,medicine or surgery to correct the problem.
A herniated disc is often the result of normal wear and tear as a person ages. The discs lose some of their water content with age and become less flexible. As this deterioration happens, even small daily tasks such as bending or twisting can cause a disc to become herniated.
Direct injury to the spine can also cause tiny tears causing the disc to bulge or break open and leak.
The common symptoms for a herniated disc are:
- Weakness – If a herniated disc is pressing on a nerve, it will affect how the nerve communicates with the muscle it’s attached to. This will cause the muscle to be weak which affects a person’s strength in that arm or leg.
- Numbness or tingling – Again, if the disc is pinching a nerve, it can cause that area of the body to become numb or tingly.
- Arm or leg pain – If the herniated disc is in the lower lumbar area, it is common for a person to feel pain in the buttocks, down the thigh and leg. If the affected disc is in the neck, then the patient will feel pain in the shoulders or arms.