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What Causes a Disc to Herniate?

As many as 20 out of every 1000 adults experience a herniated disc every year, and if you’re one of those people, it’s something we treat here at Spine Group Beverly Hills. Herniated discs are common, but what causes the rupture in the first place? 

In this article, Dr. John Regan answers this question and provides insights into what you can do to reduce your risk of disc herniation. 

What causes a herniated disk?

A disc herniation happens when the outer part of the disk 一 the annulus 一 becomes weakened and tears, allowing the softer inner portion of the disk to push through the outer layer. There are multiple factors responsible for weakening the outer layer of your disk. Below, we explore five risk factors that contribute to weakened or damaged outer disks.

1. The natural aging process 

Sometimes discs herniate, even in the absence of extreme movements or injuries. As you age, both natural wear-and-tear and degenerative diseases can cause your discs to lose water. When discs lose water, they are more susceptible to tears.

2. Excessive weight

Research indicates that obesity can increase your risk of several spinal conditions, including low back pain, spondylosis, and intervertebral disc disorder. Carrying extra weight (especially in the abdominal area) can cause your pelvis to tilt forward, which makes your back arch. This is known as lordosis, and unfortunately, the arching of your back and the excessive strain on your back can cause wear and tear on your vertebrae, contributing to disc herniation.  

3. A sudden strain from improper lifting or from twisting violently

If you lift something without using the proper safety techniques, you may also be at risk for rupturing a disc. When you need to move a heavy object, always lift with your leg muscles and not your back. In addition, refrain from twisting your back while holding the object.

When possible, always use the buddy system or tools (such as a dolly cart) for lifting items.

4. Having a physically demanding job

According to a study, the more physically demanding your job is, the more likely you will experience a disc herniation. If you work in a physically demanding role, always follow your company’s safety protocols.

Tip: Wearing a back belt can support your back, but it should never replace safe lifting techniques.

5. Injury and trauma

Injuries and traumas can also cause disc damage. Examples include car accidents, slip and falls, and other impact accidents like skiing accidents.

Preventing disc herniation

Now that we’ve covered the causes of disc herniation, let’s talk about prevention. It’s not always possible to prevent a disc herniation, but there are things you can do to reduce your risk. Practicing safe lifting techniques, incorporating regular exercise into your daily routine, and maintaining a healthy weight can support your back. 

How are disc herniations treated?

Whether wear-and-tear or an accident contributed to your disc herniation, your number one priority is likely getting pain relief. The right treatment plan starts with an accurate diagnosis. After a thorough exam, a review of your symptoms, and any necessary imaging (such as X-rays), Dr. Regan works with you to find the right treatment. Potential options include:

Don’t settle with back pain. If you suspect you have a herniated disc 一 no matter what caused it 一 Dr. Regan can walk you through your treatment options. Schedule an appointment at our Beverly Hills or Santa Monica, California office and get the relief you deserve.

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