01 Mar Is There a Root Cause Behind Herniated Discs?
Back pain is one of the most common complaints heard in doctors’ offices. Surprisingly, many cases of back pain are nonspecific. This is to say that a thorough examination does not reveal a cause. When back pain is specific, it is sometimes the result of herniated discs.
We are often asked if there is a single root cause behind herniated discs. The answer is both yes and no. Yes, in the sense that we can usually identify something specific that led to a patient’s problem. But no in the sense that not all herniated discs are caused by the same things. There are as many ways to herniate a disc as there are to cause a hernia in the abdominal wall.
What It Actually Is
A herniated disc is a disc that is partially protruding from the normal space it occupies between two vertebrae. Discs are soft, flexible pieces of tissue that provide cushioning and support between bones in the spine. They usually stay in place without issue. But if something should cause a piece of disc to protrude from its normal space, it can cause pain by pressing on nearby nerves.
Symptoms of a herniated disc include pain and stiffness, a burning sensation, weakness in the legs, and tingling. If we suspect a herniated disc, a simple imaging test would confirm it for us.
Many Different Causes
We now arrive at the million-dollar question: what causes herniated discs? Again, there is no single answer. If you put a hundred patients in a room and asked them to describe the events leading up to their herniated discs, you would get a bunch of different answers. Having said that, here are the most common causes we see in our office:
- Impact Injuries – Impact severe enough to jostle the spine can provide just enough movement between vertebrae to cause a disc to herniate. We see this a lot in athletes, particularly football players. Disc-herniating impact injuries are also fairly routine during car accidents.
- Improper Lifting – Lifting a heavy object improperly, which is to say bending over and lifting with your back, puts a lot of strain on the spine and its supporting muscle structure. Lift improperly one too many times and you can easily herniate a disc.
- Unexpected Movement – Plenty of people with herniated discs describe unexpected movement in the moments just before they began feeling back pain. An example would be someone slipping on an icy sidewalk and, on the way down, twisting in an odd manner.
- Improper Posture – The ideal posture is for the back to be straight, the chest out, and the shoulders held high. This posture keeps the spine in correct alignment. If you have poor or improper posture, unnecessary pressure on the spine could lead to a herniated disc.
- Physical Anomalies – In some people, herniated discs are the result of some sort of physical anomaly. For example, both benign and cancerous tumors can cause herniated discs. So can seemingly innocuous bone growths. Anything capable of misaligning the spine could cause disc herniation.
It has been our experience that most cases of herniated discs are the result of improper lifting, improper posture, or unexpected movement. Fortunately, there are a number of treatments that we can utilize in an attempt to avoid invasive surgery. These include things like steroid injections and cervical discectomy.
If you are suffering pain as the result of a herniated disc, we invite you to make an appointment to see one of our specialists. Herniated discs are something we see frequently here in our Weatherford, TX office.