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Disc herniation - definition, causes, effects


Our spines are very flexible yet it’s a very important part of our body. It serves as an attachment point for muscles in our body as well as protecting the spinal cord. It also helps anchor the body and creates mobility in the upper body. This is why it is easily prone to injury. A common injury is disc herniation. Today, the blog will cover a brief overview of disc herniation.

Intervertebral discs – description, function, herniation

Our spine consists of 34 moveable vertebrae and in between each vertebra is a soft gelatinous material called the disc. The function of the disc is to help absorb pressure and act as a cushion. This disc consists of tough layers of fiber and a soft gel in the center. A disc herniation can happen anywhere in the spine. It is more commonly located in the lumbar spine and the cervical spine. It is a common injury and can be serious depending on the area. In the lumbar spine, it is most likely from twisting while bending over. In the cervical spine, a disc herniation is usually through sudden strain or a jarring movement.

Located behind the body of the vertebrae and the disc is the spinal cord. Unfortunately, this disc can be ruptured through an abnormal motion of the spine as explained above. That abnormal action causes the fibers of the disc to crack. Once it cracks, it allows the gel-like substance in the center of the disc to leak out. This causes the discs to change shape. There are 4 stages of disc herniation, each level represents the change in the shape of the disc. From least severe shape change to most severe; disc bulge, disc protrusion, disc extrusion and sequestered disc. The severity of shape change is also linear with the level of symptoms and pain. Once the disc shape changes, it impacts and irritates the spinal cord. This is where the experience of numbness, tingling, and radiating pain comes into play. The spinal cord is the center of the nervous system. If that’s disrupted everything below the level of disruption will be impacted as well.

Symptoms of disc herniation

The level of herniation often correlates with the severity of the symptoms. The more severe the herniation the more severe the symptoms. Some less severe symptoms would be local pain, numbness, and tingling down the extremities. The more severe symptoms would include gait alteration, shock-like pain running down into extremities, problematic fine motor skills, loss of bladder control, and losing balance and co-ordination.

Conclusion and recommendation

Disc herniations take a long time to heal. Even in severe cases, surgical intervention is needed. This is because the disc does not get many nutrients as it is mostly cartilage. One thing to do is to do some basic exercises by yourself. We have mentioned exercises previously so check out our Instagram and Facebook Page. But the best option is to seek the advice of a professional so they can put you back on to the right track.