Spinal discs are soft, fluid-filled pads which envelop the spinal cord, serving as shock absorbers in between the hard, bony vertebrae. A disc herniation is a protrusion of the disk substance, due to swelling, or loss of fluid inside the disc. Typically it bulges through the minor openings in the vertebrae where nerves go into the spinal column, and this bulge puts pressure on nerves causing pain. Most commonly, disk herniation occurs in the lower back, but also often in the lower neck.
Causes of disc herniation are either disc degeneration or injury. Disc degeneration involves wear and tear on the disc over time. Visualize the disc as a rubber inner tube filled with water. When the fluid inside leaks out, the tire deflates, is compressed by the weight of the spinal column, and bulges out around the perimeter.
Why do vertebral discs lose liquid? Material in the disc degenerates naturally as you age, and they lose part of the fluid that fills them. There is a lot of mechanical wear and tear on the spine; bending and twisting and contorting in awkward positions over many years has a cumulative effect. This is simpy part of the aging process.
A disk herniation may also occur due to a sudden trauma, including everything from a fall on an slippery winter sidewalk to an auto accident to just plain lifting a bag of groceries wrong at the wrong moment. A herniated disc resultd from tiny tears or cracks in the outer layer, the annulus or capsule, of the disc.
Avoiding Disc Herniation
To lessen the stress that improper posture puts on your back, practice proper posture. Use correct lifting methods, like lifting by bending your knees and squatting before a lift.
Have a good posture when walking or standing; keep your shoulders back and down, the abdominal muscles in, chin back, and the lower back supported.
Quit smoking; nicotine and other substances in cigarette smoke can be harmful to you in many ways. Nicotine may harm your spinal discs, since it lowers the ability of the discs to absorb needed nutrients, and can make them dry and brittle.
Lack of regular exercise, not doing strenuous exercise for long periods of time, or beginning to exercise too strenuously after a long time of inactivity can cause stress and deterioration in your discs. Get enough physical exercise.
Being overweight, and carrying around that extra body weight, particularly in the gut area, causes added strain on the lower back. Stay in your ideal weight zone for your age and body height.