What is a Herniated Disc? The spine (backbone) is made up of a series of individual bones called vertebrae that are stacked to form the spinal column. Between the vertebrae are flat, round cushioning pads called intervertebral discs, which act as shock absorbers. Each disc has a soft, gel-like center called the nucleus pulposus, surrounded by a tough, fibrous outer layer called the annulus. A herniated disc, also called a slipped disc or ruptured disc, occurs when pressure from the vertebrae above and below force some or all of the nucleus pulposus through a weakened or torn part of the annulus. The herniated nucleus pulposus can press on the nerves near the disc, resulting in pain.
Herniated discs can occur in any part of the spine, but they are most common in the neck (cervical spine) and lower back (lumbar section of the spine). Herniated discs are more common in people between 30 and 40 years old, but they can occur at any age. Studies have shown that even some teenagers can be affected.
As we age, the discs in the spine become less flexible, which increases the risk of injury. Herniated discs often produce no symptoms at all. Symptoms of a herniated disc in the lower back include:
- Pain that radiates to the buttocks, legs, and feet — called sciatica (Back pain might or might not be present, as well.)
- Tingling or numbness in the legs or feet.
- Muscle weakness.
Symptoms of a herniated disc in the neck include:
- Pain near or over the shoulder blade.
- Pain that radiates to the shoulder, arm, and sometimes the hand and fingers.
- Neck pain, especially in the back and on the sides of the neck (The pain might increase when bending or turning the neck.)
- Spasm of the neck muscles.
Symptoms of a herniated disc in the mid-back tend to be vague. There might be pain in the upper back, lower back, abdomen, or legs, as well as weakness or numbness in one or both legs.
If herniated disc pain is causing you to miss out on your normal, active lifestyle, check out our team of doctors dedicated to herniated disc treatments. Learn more about the most common non-surgical treatments for herniated discs such as physical therapy, as well as our minimally invasive procedures that may help you find relief from neck and back pain.
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