How Do Herniated Discs Happen?

Having a herniated disc is a painful experience, but it’s certainly not a lonely one. Though the official medical data reports that the condition afflicts between one and three percent of the population, if you ask your friends, you’re likely to get a strictly anecdotal sense that it’s a lot more prevalent than that.

One way or another, the injury, by definition, involves having the discs that cushion our spine’s vertebrae pushed out of its natural position, and in some case the disc sustains so much damage that it ruptures.  As a result, the disc (and potentially its contents) start pressing on nerves and other bodies in a very small and crowded space, and the result can be extreme discomfort.

One of the most frustrating aspects of a herniated disc diagnosis is that in many instances, the patient suffering the injury has no idea how it happened. In fact, sometimes patients are diagnosed with herniated discs without having obviously hurt themselves.

There are a lot of ways that herniated discs can happen. Some of the most common include:

Age – Wear and Tear

As we get older, our spinal structures degenerate as a function of the normal wear and tear that comes from walking around, carrying things, athletics, and more. When you add aging into the mix, the disc can become weaker and dehydrated, and degeneration becomes more likely.

Accident or Injury

Whether you’re an athlete who suffered a fall or body blow, you lifted something heavy or you were in a car accident,  having your body endure a sudden jerking movement or twisting movement can put a lot of pressure on the disc and cause it to slip out of place or rupture.

Sudden Movements

It may sound extraordinary, but a simple sudden movement like sneezing or coughing can lead to a herniated disc, especially if the spinal bodies have already been weakened by age or previous injury.

Being Overweight

Obesity has been directly linked to a higher risk of suffering a herniated disc. The reason for this is clear: excess weight puts more strain on the midsection, making it more likely that discs can move out of place or rupture.

Smoking or Using Nicotine Products

We all know that smoking carries a wide range of health risks, and herniated disc is one of them. Not only does the hampered blood flow attributed to nicotine use weaken the spinal discs, but it also makes it much harder for the body to heal itself.


There is some evidence that hereditary may play a role in having back problems, including a tendency towards easily degenerated discs. If one or both of your parents or grandparents had a history of herniated disc, there is a good chance that you will too.

Sedentary Lifestyle

If you spend a great deal of time sitting around and don’t get any exercise, your muscles and back structures are more likely to be tense and prone to injury. Getting some daily exercise will do many positive things for your body, including strengthening core muscles that help support the spine.

If you believe that you may have a herniated disc, or have already been diagnosed with one but haven’t taken any action to address the problem, contact our lumbar spine specialist today to learn how we can help.

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