A herniated disk is a problem with the disk that sits between the bones that are in your spine. These cushions are known as disks and the bones are known as vertebrae. The spinal disk is soft with a jelly type of center and is enclosed in a rubbery exterior. When the jelly type of center known as the nucleus slips or ruptures this is known as a herniated disk. It can occur at any part of the spine but most commonly is found to occur in the lower back. It can then cause pain and numbness as well as weakness in the arm or leg. Some people don’t have any symptoms and others with mild symptoms may improve over time.
Herniated disks are common in the lower back (lumbar spine) and neck (cervical spine). They usually affect one side of the body.
- Arm or leg pain. This will be due to the herniated disk occurring in the lower back and may cause pain in the buttocks, thigh and calf as well as in the foot. If the herniated disk is in your neck, the most pain, which may be sharp, will be felt in your shoulder and arm.
- Numbness or tingling. For those who have a herniated disk that affected the nerves, they will have numbness and tingling in the part of the body that the nerves affected in.
- Weakness. The muscles that are controlled by the affected nerves will be weakened and therefore may decrease your strength while holding items or may cause you to stumble.
You can have a herniated disk without symptoms. You might not know you have it unless it shows up on a spinal image but if you have pain that radiates into your arm or leg, or you have neurological symptoms like numbness or weakness then you must seek immediate help.
Disk herniation usually occurs with age and is known as wear and tear also as disk degeneration. With the aging process, the disks are more sensitive and therefore can tear even with the slightest strain. They also become less flexible. Most people don’t know the cause of their herniated disks because some may have it due to age, or carrying heavy objects or those that have had any kind of trauma.