A herniated disk is a condition that occurs when the soft, gel-like material in the center of an intervertebral disk ruptures out through a tear in its surrounding, outer, fibrous ring. This may result in pain and possible numbness or weakness in the part of the body supplied by the nerve root exiting the spine at that level. The exact cause of a herniated disk is not known. However, some factors may predispose or increase your chance of developing one. If you have a herniated disk, you should seek treatment from Dr. William L Yancey, a herniated disk specialist. If left untreated, the herniated disk can put pressure on the spinal nerve, which can cause pain, tingling, or weakness in your arms or legs.
In this article, we look at some of the different causes of herniated disks. Read on to learn more.
- Gradual Wear and Tear
Gradual wear and tear on the disks as one ages can cause a herniated disk. In younger people, the cartilage disks are thicker and stiffer. Hence they do not get damaged or herniated as quickly. However, with age, these cartilaginous disks begin to dry up and thicken, making them more vulnerable to injury, leading to a herniated disk.
- Cigarette Smoking
Smoking increases your risk of developing a herniated disk in the neck, especially between 30 and 40 years old. Nicotine in cigarettes relaxes the tension in muscles, leading to poor posture, muscle strain, and fatigue. It also reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood and affects your ability to heal from an injury. Lack of oxygen and difficulty healing can lead to a herniated disk.
- Poor Posture
People with poor posture are more likely to develop herniated disks at their cervical spine (the neck). A forward flexed or rounded shoulder position puts pressure on the spinal disks, increasing the risk of a herniated disk.
- Lifting Incorrectly
If you lift something incorrectly, you are more likely to feel pain in your neck and develop a herniated disk. This is especially true if you are lifting something that weighs about 20 pounds or more. You should always lift with your knees and avoid rounding your back as you pick up heavy objects from the floor.
Infections in the spine, including arthritis, can predispose or increase your chance of developing a herniated disk. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis that affects disks in the spine. It can affect one, two, or three disks in a single level of your spine.
Trauma to the spine from a car accident and sports injuries can lead to a herniated disk. This is especially true when you suffer trauma that causes twisting or flexion of the neck simultaneously as impact.
- Exercising Incorrectly
Exercise such as weightlifting and sit-ups can cause a herniated disk when you do them incorrectly. Under-developed abdominal muscles, poor body mechanics, and prolonged periods of activity increase your risk of developing a herniated disk in the lumbar spine (lower back).
In summary, a herniated disk is a condition that occurs when the soft, gel-like material in the center of an intervertebral disk ruptures out through a tear in its surrounding, outer, fibrous ring. Common causes of the condition include trauma, exercising incorrectly, infection, lifting incorrectly, and gradual wear and tear.