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What is a Herniated Disc?

rare herniated disc

Herniated discs are one of the most common causes of back pain and also a common cause of work absences. But even though they’re responsible for a lot of back pain, many people don’t understand what they are, or what causes them. Here’s a quick overview: Your discs are located between your vertebrae, where they provide critical cushioning to help your spine move easily without strain and pain. The discs themselves have two main parts – a fibrous “shell” or outer layer, and a gel-filled interior that actually offers the cushioning. A disc becomes herniated when it shifts out of position, becoming “pinched” by the vertebrae on either side of it. This pinching causes the disc to bulge, which in turn can increase pressure on the spinal nerves and cause pain, numbness and other symptoms in your arms or legs. When the trauma to the disc is severe, the disc can rupture and gel can leak out. In addition to increasing pressure on the nerves, the displaced gel also contains substances that can irritate nerves. Aside form injury, another common cause of disc herniation is the aging process. Years of wear and tear can increase the likelihood discs will rupture, and discs also lose some of their fluid, becoming less flexible. Other risk factors include:

  • obesity
  • improper lifting of heavy items
  • leading a sedentary lifestyle
  • smoking
  • sitting for prolonged periods
  • repetitive bending and lifting

In many cases, herniated discs will respond over time to conservative management techniques such as:

  • pain medication and anti-inflammatory drugs
  • corticosteroid injections
  • hot or cold therapy
  • stretching exercises
  • physical therapy

If you’re having  back pain Seattle, call us today at 253-841-8939 to schedule your consultation and make your pain a thing of the past!

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