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Herniated Disc

Herniated Disc

Definition

Discs are small circular, compressible cushions between the vertebral bones in the spinal column. They act as cushions for the vertebrae. A herniated disc bulges from its proper place, putting pressure on spinal nerves. This is most common in the lower spine.

Herniated Lumbar Disc
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Causes

A herniated disc is caused by reduced water content, which results in flattening and less cushioning. It can also be the result of trauma.

Risk Factors

A herniated disc is generally associated with normal aging. It is more common in people after age 30 years of age. Other factors that may increase your chance of a herniated disc include:

  • Trauma from a fall, accident, or sudden twisting
  • Strain on the back—either repeated or sudden, as from lifting a heavy weight
  • Certain jobs that require heavy lifting
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes

Symptoms

A herniated disc may cause:

  • Pain
    • May be sharp, dull, piercing, aching, burning, or throbbing, depending on the disc and size of herniation
    • May spread over the back, buttocks, down the back of one thigh, and into the calf
    • May be in one leg or both legs
  • Numbness, tingling, or weakness in the legs, feet, or in one or both arms
  • In severe cases, inability to find comfort even lying down
  • Sudden aching or twisted neck that cannot be straightened without severe pain
  • —involves bowel or bladder changes and/or numbness in the groin
    • Note: —This is an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your spine will be examined. The movement, strength, and reflexes of your arms and legs will be tested.

Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:

  • MRI scan
  • CT scan
  • Bone scan

Treatment

Staying active may be better than bed rest. Treatments may include:

Prevention

To help reduce your chance of a herniated disc:

  • Practice good posture. Stand and sit straight, and keep your back straight when lifting.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Exercise regularly. Ask your doctor about exercises to strengthen your back and stomach.
  • Don’t wear high-heeled shoes.
  • If you sit for long periods of time, use a stool to bring your knees above your hips.
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