Herniated Disc

A herniated disc is a medical problem that can occur in the back. They are primarily seen occurring in the lower back. The rupturing of a disc is among the top causes of back pain and “sciatica” – a type of leg pain. Both the old and young can experience this in their lives, and it’s painful. Although a herniated discs can be very painful, a large number of people prefer non-surgical treatment, as time and rest can help in healing.


Your spine is comprised of 24 bones, otherwise known as vertebrae that are built on top of one another. These bones connect to create a pathway that protects the spinal cord. The lower back is made up of five vertebrae and the spinal cord. This area is called your lumbar spine, including intervertebral discs, and parts of the lumbar (lower) spine. The spinal cord and nerves make up the other parts of your spine. These “electrical cables” travel through the body carrying messages between your muscles and brain. Nerve roots branch out from the spinal cord through openings in the vertebrae. The space in between your vertebrae contains flexible, intervertebral discs. These flat, round discs are less than an inch thick and absorb shock when your body is in motion. They are made up of two components:

  • Annulus Fibrosus. A tough, flexible ring around the outside of the disc.
  • The Nucleus Pulposus. This is the soft centre of the disc.
  • Healthy intervertebral disc
  • Healthy intervertebral disc (cross-section view).



Discs begin to herniate when the nucleus pushes on the outer ring due to an injury or friction. This pressure against the outer ring may cause pain in the lower part of the back. If the pressure continues, the nucleus may push through the outer ring of the disc or cause bulging. In this situation, great pressure is placed on the spinal cord and nearby nerve roots. The disc material releases chemical irritants that contribute to nerve inflammation. When a nerve root is irritated, several things can occur. Pain, weakness, and numbing in one or both of your legs is called “sciatica.”  You may have no symptoms, but most people would experience the following; pain in the back, feet, arms or legs. Some sensory organs may be left numb like in the legs feeling uncomfortable and some burning or tingling disturbance around that area. Also, it’s common for some neck stiffness and hand numbness, in general, some herniated discs have no symptoms or don’t show any sign of an upcoming of it. A herniated disc may be diagnosed after a complete history and checking of a physical exam. X-rays have also proven to allow easily visibly of ruptured discs around the lower back and can be seen where it is. Most people don’t go for surgical operations but rather prefer to use rest, pain medication, and physical therapy which is best for greater gradual results, as said earlier, most people don’t need surgery for this. Rest and other treatments actually have proven to work well, as results can start to be seen in the fourth and sixth week. Cases, where surgery is needed, is when the pain becomes too much handle and the physical therapy isn’t working well enough. The pain from a herniated disc is bad or worse when one is active but better while resting and in calm conducive conditions.



Serena Wright

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