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Herniated discs is a condition when the outer wall of a disc in the spine tears or ruptures. When the disc ruptures, the soft material inside that helps to cushion the vertebrae of the spine can squeeze out and press on nearby nerves. Learn more about herniated discs.
The spine is a column of 33 bones (vertebrae) stacked on top of each other. The vertebrae are each separated by discs that cushion the vertebrae. This cushion allows the vertebrae to move properly. Each disc is a small, circular capsule with a tough outer wall (the annulus) and a softer core (the nucleus).
If the outer wall of the spinal disc weakens, it may push out or bulge toward the nerves. This is known as a bulging disc. If the outer wall of the disc tears, the soft material inside the disc can squeeze out and press on nearby nerves. This is called a herniated disc.
A herniated disc (also called ruptured disc) can cause pain, numbness, or weakness in the legs or back. In some people, it may cause no symptoms. Most herniated discs occur in the lower part of the spine.
The most common signs and symptoms of a herniated disc include:
See a doctor if you have symptoms of a herniated disc.
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Disc herniation is often the result of aging. As people age, the discs in the spine become less flexible and more prone to tearing or rupturing. In some cases, a severe injury may cause a disc to herniate.
Your physician will do a complete medical history and physical exam to rule out potential causes of your pain. Other tests may include:
You may also have a procedure called a discography. A discography is a procedure used for diagnosing whether or not damaged discs in the spine are causing pain in the neck or back. During the procedure, a doctor injects x-ray dye into several discs to identify those that are leaking and causing pain.
Treatment for herniated discs will depend on how much pain you have and your overall health. Treatment options may include:
While you can’t stop the aging process, there are measures you can take to reduce your risk for herniated discs. These measures include:
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