Herniated Disc - What is it?

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Last Updated:
April 8, 2021

Herniated Disc - What is it?

A herniated disc is a common condition associated with back pain, discomfort, and immobility. If you’ve been diagnosed with a herniated disc then you were likely presented with treatment option ranging from simpe rest to thde extreme of invasive spinal surgery. Most people would probably want to avoid back surgery, and with good reason. Fortunately they have other options. Massage therapy, especially in conjunction with physical therapy and/or regular exercise, can be a great option in managing pain and discomfort associated with a herniated disc. In some cases the underlying problem can be reduced or even eliminated.

In this post we will look at:

  • What a herniated disc is
  • What causes a disc herniation
  • Symptoms associated with disc herniation

What exactly is a herniated disc?

So, your spine is made up of vertebrae: Individual bones all stacked up on top of one another to create a flexible column that supports your back. Because your spine supports your body weight and also must remain flexible, protection is needed to keep the bones from getting damaged where they stack on top of each other. This is where the disc is. The discs consist of a tough elastic-like outer ring and a softer inner pulp.

Disc herniation occurs when the outer ring tears and allows the soft inner pulp to push through to the outside of the ring. This can put pressure on the surrounding structures, most critically the nerves in the spinal cord.

You can that a disc out of its place can put pressure right on the spinal cord.
Stages of a herniation. Earlier stages are more accurately called a bulging disc, as a herniation has not technically occurred yet.

What Causes A Herniated Disc?


Normal wear and tear can be a cause of disc herniation and other spinal disc problems. The discs in our spine put up with a lot of abuse to keep us supported and mobile. Aging and lifestyle can be contributing factors as well as musculoskeletal imbalances that cause excessive stress to be placed on the spinal disc.

Trauma (Acute Injury)

Sometimes a single traumatic injury can be the cause of a disc herniation. This can happen to a perfectly healthy disc if the trauma is great enough, or a disc may be degenerated to the point that a seemingly simple, non-forceful movement might be enough to cause a herniation. (I have heard of people herniating discs simply bending over or sneezing).

What are the symptoms?

A herniated disc can cause a number of problems.

Local Pain

Direct pressure or irritation from inflammation can cause pain in the structures right around the spinal disc that is affected.

Referred Pain

Because the nerves from your spine carry signals to the rest of your body, pain can occur anywhere along the affected nerve. Pain in the arms or legs, depending on the part of the spine that is affected, is common and usually occurs on one side of the body only.

Numbness or Tingling

Disc herniation can cause numbness or tingling in parts of the body connected to a compressed nerve.

Immobility or Weakenss

Muscles that rely on the affected nerves may weaken, and other muscles may tighten around the disc to protect it. As a result, certain movements may become difficult or restricted.

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