What is a herniated disc? A herniated disc is a problem that occurs with the discs between the vertebrae of your spine. A herniated disc can also be referred to as a slipped, bulging or ruptured disc. Each disc serves as a cushion between the bones. It is slightly hard on the outside, and has a softer jelly-like substance inside. When the jelly inside pushes through the stronger exterior, a herniated disc results.
Causes: A herniated disc can be caused by many things. Aging, being overweight, and having poor genes can be factors that make a herniated disc more likely. Lifting a heavy object or habitual slouching can cause a herniated disc as well. The main reason behind most herniated discs is uneven pressure on the spine. Muscles pull against the spine, and an imbalance in the muscles can easily lead to a herniated disc.
Symptoms: When a herniated disc occurs, pain may be felt in the area due to nerve irritation. Some people experience pain or numbness in arms or legs. The pain usually shoots from the neck or spine out to the limbs, hands, fingers, feet, and toes. This is called sciatica. Pain on one side only or pain that abates when you change position is another clue. Pain when straining is another indicator. Many people don’t feel any symptoms at all.
Treatment: Many people don’t feel a herniated disc and don’t require any treatment. Those who do experience extreme pain should rest for a day. Mild to moderate pain can increase after more than two days of rest, so instead do light activity such as walking to keep the muscles strong. A heating pad or warm shower, alternating with an ice pack every few hours, can alleviate pain. Ask your doctor to recommend exercises you can do to strengthen back muscles. Medications are available to manage the pain, but will not fix a herniated disc. Fifty percent of people will recover on their own within a month. Most people are better within six months. Only about ten percent of people will actually need surgery.
If you think you have a herniated disc, check with a doctor. It should clear up on its own with a few simple healthy habits. You can prevent a herniated disc by lifting properly with your legs, not your back. Eat healthy, exercise regularly, use proper posture, and avoid smoking. A herniated disc can be painful, but it will heal in time.
What Causes Back Pain? (Time)
How to Prevent Back Pain (National Institutes of Health)