Herniated Disc Causes Explained
A herniated disc causes pain, stiffness, and a whole host of other symptoms in many cases, but what is actually the root cause of a herniated disc? To answer this question requires an understanding of how discs tear along their outer walls, and it is first helpful to understand spinal anatomy as a whole and how certain elements of the spine can impact others.
The Greater Anatomical Picture of the Spine
Intervertebral discs do not just tear open out of nowhere. In fact, the occurrence of a herniated disc is largely due to the pressure the discs have received from other elements of the spine. Vertebrae, facet joints, muscles, ligaments, and several other elements all come together to form what we know as the spine. These elements allow the spine to keep us upright, bend, twist, sit, stand, and perform countless other tasks.
Over time, the discs naturally begin to dehydrate and weaken, and are less able to absorb the many responsibilities placed on them by surrounding vertebrae, muscles, and ligaments. Even so, discs still have the responsibility of bearing and disbursing the constant pressure placed upon them. Eventually, fibers in a disc wall can give way under pressure, slowly tearing open and revealing a herniation.
Also, any sudden, unexpected movement while lifting heavy objects, exercising, participating in contact sports, or being in a car accident can cause a disc's outer wall to herniate. Thus, identifying specific herniated disc causes isn't always easy - it varies largely from patient to patient.
The Most Common of All Herniated Disc Causes
Many different issues can result in a herniated disc, the most common of which is age. Though not actually a disease, something called degenerative disc disease can set in during middle age. Similar to how hair turns gray and wrinkles form on the face, the intervertebral discs begin to deteriorate and lose strength through the years. The pressure on discs from above and below remains the same - day in and day out - but because the discs have become weakened, it is as though the discs are faced with the daunting task of supporting increased pressure. Eventually, the pressure can become so great that a disc can no longer handle it, and bulges beyond its normal parameters or ruptures.