There are 2 primary identifiable causes of a herniated disc in the vast majority of affected patients: spinal degeneration and injury.
Remember that the term herniated disc describes a structural condition and does not in any way indicate an inherently painful or problematic health issue. Additionally, herniated discs are very common and widely experienced among adults of all ages, while only a small percentage are actually symptomatic.
This resource section will explore the degenerative and traumatic causes and contributors to disc prolapse events. It will also provide additional research articles geared towards helping patients better understand how disc abnormalities are created and how to prevent them.
Discs have a lifecycle, just like any other living thing on this planet. While discs begin their lives fully flexible and moisture rich, they have a normal tendency to stiffen and dry out as they age. This process occurs quite rapidly in many patients.
The majority of healthy, pain-free adults still experience mild to moderate degenerative changes in their spines by the age of 30. Many also experience severe degenerative changes in one or more specific vertebral levels by the same age.
It is not uncommon for some adults to see these degenerative changes even earlier, such as myself. I was diagnosed with moderate degenerative changes in my lumbar spine at the age of 16.
When discs begin to dry out and lose their ability to maintain high moisture content, they shrink in both height and diameter. This process is not inherently harmful, but does bring the vertebral bones closer together.
When discs dry out, they can also become brittle and increasingly prone to the development of a compromised outer annulus fibrosus. Dry discs have a greater tendency to develop annular tears, but ironically, rarely suffer painful herniations or ruptures once the majority of nucleus tissue has shrunk significantly.
Learn more about the many causes and contributors to intervertebral herniation in the treatises listed below:
Lumbar herniated disc causes are some of the most interesting to study, since lower back bulges are the most often demonstrated in the human anatomy.
Herniated disc tennis is a seldom considered source of many intervertebral bulges.
Causes of bulging discs might be known or unknown in origin.
Smoking and herniated discs is a topic that comes as a big surprise to many lifelong smokers with back or neck pain.
Herniated disc pregnancy is a subject that expectant women must read in order to minimize their risk of suffering back pain.
Herniated disc from lifting weights is a common occurrence, since resistance training is a known causation of many types of back injury.
Herniated discs from snow shoveling can occur to due many factors, including slipping on icy ground or simply overexerting the spine.
Scoliosis might play a contributory role to some herniated discs.
Degenerative disc disease causes herniated discs, but also reduces their symptomatic potential.
Traumatic injury to a specific vertebral level, or the spine in general, might create a spontaneous disc herniation. Sometimes, there is simply so much pressure applied to a disc that the outer annulus fibrous simply can not tolerate the force. When this occurs, the outer disc wall might bulge or tear, creating a prolapsed disc or a ruptured disc condition. Discs are designed to resist tremendous loads, but are certainly not immune to damage due to overexerting a particular intervertebral level.
Some herniated discs occur for idiopathic reasons. Many patients are diagnosed with a bulging disc, yet do not demonstrate significant disc degeneration or remember an injurious event. This gives credibility to the theory that genetics also play a crucial role in who will experience a herniated disc.
For some patients, there is simply no explanation why they have disc herniations, which is even less comforting for any diagnosed individual.
When it comes to herniated discs, like all things, there is a rule of cause and effect. In this case, the cause is truly only important if it can be circumvented to prevent the effect. Unfortunately for diagnosed patients, the herniated disc effect already exists and the cause is really quite irrelevant.
It is not crucial to discover exactly what process caused a herniated disc. What is important is to understand the typical symptomology associated with your specific type of disc herniation and the types of treatment which may or may not be necessary.
Herniated discs are a natural facet of life for people of all ages and lifestyles. Learning to deal with them is key to moving on with life and not becoming yet another victim of chronic back pain.