Herniated Disc - Symptoms & Causes

A herniated disk is a common spinal condition that occurs when the soft inner material of a spinal disc bulges or leaks out through a tear in the tougher exterior. This can irritate or compress nearby nerves, causing pain, numbness, or weakness. Herniated disks can develop anywhere along the spine, but they most frequently occur in the lower back, radiating pain into the buttocks and leg.

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Herniated Disc Symptoms

When it comes to herniated disc symptoms, they can vary widely, depending on the disc's location and whether it's pressing on a nerve. Often, the symptoms affect only one side of your body.

Common symptoms include:

  • Pain in the Arm or Leg:

This is common with a herniated disc in the lower back, causing pain in the buttocks, thigh, calf, and foot. The pain usually concentrates in the shoulder and arm if the herniated disc is in your neck. This pain can be sharp or burning and may worsen when coughing, sneezing, or moving in specific ways.

  • Numbness or Tingling:

These sensations often occur in the areas served by the affected nerves.

  • Weakness:

Muscles that rely on affected nerves may weaken, affecting your balance or strength for lifting or holding items.

Symptoms can vary in intensity and duration and should be evaluated by a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment. Sometimes, a herniated disc may not cause any symptoms and can only be detected through imaging tests.

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Herniated Disc Causes & Risk Factors

A herniated disc is often the result of disc degeneration, a natural part of ageing where our discs lose their flexibility, making them more likely to tear or rupture from even minor strains or twists.

It's not uncommon for the specific cause of a herniated disc to remain unidentified. However, certain actions like lifting heavy objects improperly, using back muscles instead of stronger leg and thigh muscles, or twisting while lifting can contribute to this condition. Rarely, it might stem from a traumatic event like a fall or a direct hit to the back.

Several risk factors can increase your likelihood of experiencing a herniated disc. Carrying excess body weight puts added stress on the discs in your lower back.

Occupations that demand physical labour—especially those involving repetitive motions like lifting, pulling, or twisting—also heighten the risk. Your genetic makeup can play a role, too, with some people being more predisposed to disc problems.

Smoking can impair the oxygen supply to discs, accelerating their degeneration. Long periods of sitting, especially combined with the vibrations from driving, can put pressure on your spine. Leading a sedentary lifestyle without regular exercise can also contribute to the risk of a herniated disc.


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