Your spine is made up of a series of bones that are stacked between rubbery cushions (discs). These discs have a soft center with a tough exterior. When a disc becomes herniated, it’s because some of the soft center has pushed out through a crack in the tough outer layer. The most common areas for a herniated disc are the lower back (lumbar spine) or the neck (cervical spine.) Herniated discs are most often painful, but sometimes they aren’t, so it’s possible to have one without even knowing it.
A herniated disc is most often caused by age-related wear and tear. As you get older, the discs in your spine become less flexible and more susceptible due to the loss of some of their water content. As a result, these discs can rupture with even a minor strain. It’s fairly common for a herniated disc to happen when you use your back muscles instead of your leg muscles to lift heavy objects, but herniated discs rarely occur from a fall or blow to the back.
Here’s how to tell if you may have a herniated disc:
- Weakness. Your nervous system can be affected by a herniated disc when it pushed material up against your spinal cord or spinal nerves, which then causes interference to the nerve signals that typically help you control your muscles. This interference can lead to back or neck pain and may cause you to stumble, or affect your ability to hold or lift items.
- Numbness and tingling. You may have a herniated disc if you have numbness or tingling that shoots down your arm and to the outer side of your hand where you little finger is.
- Leg or arm pain. If you have pain in your neck, shoulders or arms, you may have a herniated disc in your neck (cervical spine.) If you have a damaged disc in your lower back (lumbar spine), you will feel pain in your lower back, buttocks or legs. When you cough, sneeze or shift positions, this pain may shoot into your leg or arm. A herniated disc is most prevalent in the lower back.
If your neck or back pain travels down your arm or leg, or if it’s accompanied by numbness, tingling or weakness, or for more information about the services we provide, please contact our office or 805.682.1394.