Herniated Disc: What Is It And What Causes It?

There are more than 3 million cases of herniated discs every year. To say the least, it’s a very common spinal condition. If you haven’t heard of a herniated disc, the condition is also known as a slipped disc or ruptured disc. They occur most commonly in the lower back, but can also happen in the neck.

If you remember from biology class umpteen years ago, the spine is made up of vertebrae. In between each vertebra, there is a disc that provides cushioning between the bones. Think of that disc as a jelly donut – it is comprised of an extremely soft interior and slightly tougher exterior. When a disc herniates, the soft inside pushes through a small tear in the exterior. When it does, it might put pressure on a nearby nerve, sometimes resulting in pain.


As we mentioned above, a herniated disc may put pressure on a nearby nerve, resulting in pain, but that doesn’t happen all the time. In fact, many people don’t experience any symptoms at all.

The following are common symptoms of a herniated disc:

  • Arm or leg pain: If the herniation occurs in the lower back, you’re likely to experience pain in your legs. If it occurs in your neck, your shoulders or arms are more susceptible to pain.
  • Numbness and tingling: These sensations occur in the area of the body that the affected nerves serve.
  • Weakness: Your ability to walk or hold items may be affected, depending on the area of the body that the affected nerves serve.


The most common cause of herniated discs is degenerative disc disease. Degenerative disc disease is the term used to describe the gradual wear and tear of the discs as we age. As we grow older, our discs aren’t able to retain as much water as they once were, making them more susceptible to tears.

If you or a loved one is suffering from the symptoms of a herniated disc, we urge you to seek professional medical help. Find a doctor with one of our board-certified surgeons today.

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