Herniated Disc Causes & Symptoms
What is the Cause of a Herniated Disc?
Our spine and discs take a lot of stress over time. Most herniated discs are are the result of trauma or an accident putting direct stress on the disc. Gradually over weeks or months the outer annulus develops cracks and the inner gel-like nucleus is pushed out to become a bulging disc. When this occurs the disc puts pressure on the spinal cord (dura) and or nerve roots that branch out at each level and travel down your legs connecting to your muscles. A bulging disc is not always symptomatic. However, when the annulus becomes brittle and tears that bulging nucleus can protrude (ruptured disc) and extrude (herniated disc) or leave the disc entirely called sequestered disc. With time that herniated disc can become more pronounced and put significant pressure on the spinal nerves. This pressure and nucleus fluid that leaks out causes inflammation and pain sometimes localized to the back, buttock, thighs and sometimes all the way down into your calves and feet.
The following risk factors can contribute to herniated disc:
- Aging: As we age our discs gradually dry out losing its strength and structural integrity.
- Lifestyle: Not maintaining a well balanced diet, lack of regular exercise, over weight and smoking contribute to poor disc health.
- Posture: Poor mechanics when lifting or twisting puts additional stress on the spine and disc.
What are the Symptoms of a Herniated Disc?
The following symptoms are associated with a herniated disc:
- Sharp or dull pain in the lower back which gets worse with physical activity such as lifting, bending, or as simple as coughing or sneezing, muscle spasms or cramping.
- Sciatica (pain, burning, tingling, and numbness that extends from the buttock into the leg or foot).
- Leg weakness or loss of leg function.
- Loss of control of bowel or bladder function – Can be due to cauda equine syndrome or herniated disc and is considered a medical emergency. Seek medical attention immediately.