What Causes Slipped Disc (Herniated Disc)

Herniated disc, better known as slipped disc is a very common and serious back problem. It is a very common problem especially among people who gym a lot or have occupations that require them to carry heavy objects, or that comes with other hazards to their spines.

Anatomy of The Spine

In order to better understand herniated discs, we need to first understand the anatomy of the spine, and what a disc actually is.

The spine consists of a series of bones stacked on top of one another in an intricate network of blood vessels and nerves.

Anatomy of the Spine
Image 1.1: Anatomy of the Spine Source: https://www.spineuniverse.com/anatomy/spinal-anatomy-animation

These bones are protected by discs that serves to cushion any impact to the bones from any activities such as walking, falling and lifting.

Each disc consists of two parts: a rigid external ring and a soft, jelly-like internal part. Large impacts to the spines resulting in injuries or weakness can result in the internal part of the disc to protrude through the outer ring, causing what is known as a herniated disc.

Disc found between the vertebrae
Image 1.2: Disc found between the vertebrae Source: http://www.am-spine.com/intervertebral-disc/

Herniated disc can happen in any part of your spine, but the lower back is the more common area for herniated discs.

What Causes Slipped Disc

Risk factors

There are several risk factors that exacerbate the chances of getting Slipped Disc.

  • Age
    • As you get older, the discs as well as other supporting structures start to degenerate and lose its elasticity as well as the protective water content, causing the internal part of the disc to slip out more easily.
  • Gender
    • Herniated disc occurs more commonly in men than women.
  • Genetics
    • A person might inherit genes that increase the risk of getting herniated disks.
  • Obesity
    • People who are overweight or obese have an increased risk of a herniated disc because their discs need to support more weight compared to people with weight in the healthier region.
  • Sedentary lifestyle
    • Lack of exercise may result in the muscles becoming weak, increasing the risk of herniated discs.
  • Occupation
    • People with physically demanding jobs, especially those involving a lot of lifting, are naturally at an increased risk of getting herniated disc. Jobs that require prolong sitting are also at an risk.
Occupations that constantly require lifting heavy objects
Image 2.1: Occupations that constantly require lifting heavy objects Source: https://www.ditomasolaw.com/2018/07/03/lifting-safety/

Direct causes

The most common direct cause of herniated disc is definitely from the motion of lifting. A disc can slip out of place if a wrong technique is used to lift very heavy objects, especially if twisting is involved. This is usually what happens to people who gym a lot and are doing exercises such as a deadlift.

Deadlifting in the gym with weights
Image 2.2: Deadlifting in the gym with weights Source: https://www.t-nation.com/training/the-5-most-dangerous-deadlift-mistakes

Image 2.2: Deadlifting in the gym with weights

Source: https://www.t-nation.com/training/the-5-most-dangerous-deadlift-mistakes

Symptoms of Slipped Disc

As mentioned, Slipped Disc can happen in any part of the spine, and symptoms felt depends on where the herniated disc is found. Slipped Disc will add extra pressure on the nerves and muscles found around it, causing a varying degree of pain, numbness and weakness in the back or neck, as well as other parts of the body such as the arms and legs.

For slipped discs that happened in the lower back, symptoms include:

  • Pain extending to your legs
  • Numbness, weakness, pain or a tingling sensation in the back, buttocks, legs, or feet
  • Pain with certain movements
  • Pain when walking, standing or sitting
  • Numbness or tingling sensation around the genitals or anus
  • Difficulty in controlling bowel movements

For slipped discs that happened in the neck, symptoms include:

Numbness, weakness, tingling or burning sensation, or pain felt in the neck, shoulder, arm, or hand. Symptoms of herniated disc in the neck can aggravate with more neck motion.

 

Treatment for Slipped Disc

Written By: Lim Jun Tian

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