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A Primer on Herniated Discs

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Located all along your spine are small spinal discs, which mostly work to absorb shock in your back. They are made of a hard exterior and a soft, gel-like interior. If the interior of the disc spills out, the disc has become herniated. This can lead to irritated nerves around the spine.

A herniated disc can be caused by a variety of issues and shares symptoms with more serious conditions, like sciatica, so it is important to recognize the symptoms, know what is causing the symptoms, and see a doctor as soon as possible.

What are the symptoms of a herniated disc?

While a herniated disc can cause pain in the back, the pain is most commonly felt in the arms and legs, radiating from the back. The most intense pain is generally felt in the lower back or near the buttocks. Individuals who are suffering from a herniated disc may also feel numbness or tingling in their back, their buttocks, or in their arms in legs. This tingling and numbness is often accompanied by muscle weakness that can make it difficult to walk, stand up, or do simple activities.

What causes herniated discs?

Herniated discs are often caused by constant wear and tear. You may be more likely to experience a herniated disc if you perform constant repetitive motions. Less often, a herniated disc can occur if you lift something heavy in the wrong way or otherwise strain your back with an unusual motion. As a result, always lifting the correct way and trying not to put too much stress on the vertebrae can reduce the risk for a herniated disc.

How is a herniated disc treated?

There are many treatment options for individuals who are suffering from herniated discs. The most commonly used treatment is a combination of rest of the disc area and physical therapy. Individuals who have the herniated discs are asked to refrain from performing any activities that could be painful or putting any more strain on the disc. In extreme cases where there is excessive numbness or weakness, surgery is recommended to repair the area and reduce irritation on the surrounding nerves.