What Does It Mean When One of Your Spinal Discs Is Herniated?

Lots of people talk about herniated discs because they’ve heard about the debilitating pain. At the same time, many don’t fully understand how it happens or what it means to have a herniated disc.

Our team at iMed Regeneration Center specializes in helping people lower their risk of having a herniated disc. The best way to begin is by learning how a disc herniates.

Road to disc herniation

Your spine depends on discs to protect it from shock and to support smooth movement. The discs between each vertebra also stabilize your entire spine.

Spinal discs are deceptively simple structures because they only have two basic parts. Their outer section is made of several layers, but the most important components are cartilage and collagen. 

The combination of these two substances creates a cover that’s strong enough to enclose and protect the inner core. The outer cover of each disc also has fibers that connect to the adjacent vertebrae.

The inner core consists of a jelly-like substance that’s mostly water and collagen. This is the active part because it resists compression as your vertebrae move.

How herniation occurs

Despite its strength, the outer cover wears down over years of everyday movement. It can also sustain damage if you suffer a back or neck injury. Ultimately, the tissues start to break down, and weak areas develop.

When the cover has a weak area, the inner gel pushes through that spot. Every time you move, the vertebrae put pressure on the disc. Like a squishy ball or tube of toothpaste, the pressure forces the gel to bulge out through the outer shell’s weak spot.

Eventually, the cover tears open, allowing the gel to leak out of the disc. That’s when you have a herniated disc.

Symptoms following a herniated disc

Your pain begins before the disc completely herniates. As the gel bulges out, it presses against the nerve roots. Pain and stiffness also develop as changes in the disc’s structure affect its ability to support your spine.

Then once the disc herniates, the leaking gel irritates the nerves, leading to persistent inflammation. You feel the pain in the area of the damaged disc, and there’s a good chance your symptoms will spread to your arms or legs.

When spinal nerves are compressed or inflamed, you can experience pain and tingling along the length of the nerve. A herniated disc in your neck affects your arms, while a disc problem in your lower back sends symptoms radiating down your leg.

Herniated discs are the top cause of sciatica. When a disc problem affects the sciatic nerve in your lower spine, it sends excruciating pain shooting down one leg.

Preventing a herniated disc

You can’t always prevent a herniated disc because everyone has natural age-related disc degeneration. But you can lower your risk by:

The nicotine you inhale while smoking contributes to disc degeneration and reduces the blood flow to the disc. Nicotine also interferes with the production of cells needed to maintain the disc’s inner core.

Getting routine chiropractic care helps prevent herniated discs (along with many other back problems). Keeping your spine in alignment reduces excessive stress on the discs. It also ensures optimum blood flow, which means your discs get the nutrients and oxygen they need to stay healthy.

Should you end up with a herniated disc, iMed Regeneration Center offers advanced medical care, regenerative medicine, and chiropractic therapy. If you need help for a spine problem, call our office in Colorado Springs, Colorado, or book an appointment online today.

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