Herniated Disc: What You Should Know?

Herniated disc, also known as a slipped or ruptured disc, can occur in any part of the spine, but it is more typical for the lower back. Moreover, this problem is one of the most common causes of the low back pain and sciatica (leg pain). Today’s medicine worked our nonsurgical treatments which help people even with the acute pain to feel desired relief after just a few weeks or months of therapy.

To understand better the problem and to determine the signs of herniated disk, we should look closely at the human anatomy.


Human spine consists of 24 bones (called vertebrae) that are placed on top of one another. These bones together create a canal for the protection of the spinal cord. The lower back is also known as lumbar spine and consists of five vertebrae.

Spinal cord and nerves are stretched through the spinal canal and serve to carry the message between your brain and muscles. Intervertebral disks work as shock absorbers for your vertebrae; they are flat and round and approximately half inch thick. Intervertebral discs consist of:

  1.    Annulus fibrosus – outer ring of the disk, tough and flexible.
  2.    Nucleus pulposus – center of the disk, soft, jelly-like.

Now, when we have looked closely to the anatomy of the spine, we can speak about such abnormality as herniated disc.   

What does happen when herniated disc appears?

A disc is considered to be herniated when its jelly-like nucleus pushes against its outer ring. It can be caused by some reasons, such as wear and tear or a sudden injury. As a result of this pressure against the outer ring, we can feel lower back pain.

What are the causes of the herniated disc?

As we get older, our discs lose water content and begin to dry out and weaken. It is related to the natural aging of our spine. However, there are some risk factors which can fasten the wear and tear of the disc.

  1.    Gender. The problem of herniated disc is more common for men between the ages of 30 to 50.
  2.    Improper lifting of the heavy objects using back muscles (instead of your legs) can be a cause of herniated disc.
  3.    Overweight adds stress on the discs and can cause many problems with the spine.
  4.    Driving for an extended period of time doubled by the car engine vibrations can put additional pressure on your spine.
  5.    Smoking can cause more rapid degeneration due to lessening oxygen supply to the disk.

What are the signs of herniated disc?

You can have only one or all of the following symptoms:

  1.    Pain in back.
  2.    Sciatica – leg/foot pain.
  3.    Weakness in the leg.
  4.    Numbness or a tingling sensation in the leg/foot.
  5.    Loss of bladder or bowel control. (Require immediate medical attention)

We hope this article has answered your questions and clear the problem of the herniated discs.  

Gary Starkman Dr. Starkman, a top Neurologist in NYC, is the Medical Director and founder of New York Neurology Associates. He is Board Certified in Neurology with a subspecialty certification in Pain Medicine.

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